Girls Who Code: Beyond the Movement
Prior to Girls Who Code, I associated computer science with complex computations and gibberish that only brainiacs were capable of deciphering. Simply put, I was not enthusiastic to confront the stress that came with coding. I had already taken a computer engineering class at my school that had drained my energy each day as I struggled to solve algorithms. However, when I joined the Girls Who Code summer immersion program at Blackrock, I was shocked to discover that this program was not just about learning to code all day. This program is a movement to rectify the gender disparity in the technological field by creating a vast network of girls in order to change the world for the better. We were introduced to a variety of programming languages, debugging strategies, data science, robotics, and web development. This program proved to be a sharp contrast against the strict environment of my computer engineering class. In other words, this program provides an alternative approach to computer science by presenting a positive and interactive environment where we discuss issues that persist today and continue to build strong connections.
First and foremost, Girls Who Code emphasizes collaboration in the form of games, presentations, mentorship, and projects. For instance, we have “icebreakers” daily which are games we play to interact and get to know one another. My personal favorite is Mafia where we have a certain number of people chosen as “mafias” and we have to try and guess who they are as they continue to “kill” the rest of the people. Although this game may be chaotic at times, Mafia is highly enjoyable with hilarious reactions. In addition to games, we are also given presentations from various successful and noteworthy women regarding their professions in business and technology. This enables us to obtain insight on new concepts and how to prepare for our future. To elaborate further, we are given individual mentors to guide us through the college process and help choose our potential career path. I am grateful to be given this opportunity to converse with my mentor because our discussions only intensify my desire to pursue computer science in the future. Furthermore, in terms of projects, my teammates and I started and participated in an organization called The Giving NYC for our final project.
Our objective is to create a systematic change in the way the homeless are served by creating a network among established distributors in need of resources (i.e. homeless shelters, certain churches, soup kitchens, etc..) to individuals, organizations, and companies that possess and wishes to donate these resources. Therefore, this connection will enhance the efficiency, accessibility, and utility of these donated resources, thus improving the lives of the homeless. Our team, consisting of Anabella, Ishani, and I, are passionate about improving the conditions of our community. Hence, this organization enables us to make a difference by combining our skills in coding in order to create a better and safer environment. Blackrock exudes a comfortable and friendly vibe due to their hospitality and constant support. Therefore, if we have any issues, we are free to state our opinions and vent. The best part about teamwork is that if we are all struggling we can seek help from others without feeling intimidated. We can also express our anguish with coding to each other since we know that we are not alone. We also motivate each other to conquer difficult tasks everyday.
Additionally, Girls Who Code strives to resolve the gender gap and lack of diversity in technology. During panel discussions and presentations from the companies that we visited, the issue of discrimination became prominent as these influential women shared their experiences. They have encountered issues such as imposter syndrome and mansplaining. Imposter syndrome is when individuals are doubtful and insecure of their accomplishments and feel like they do not belong in a certain environment. Mansplaining is when men explain their thoughts to women in a condescending manner. One aspect that I enjoyed hearing from our trip to Tumblr was that there are support groups for women to discuss these issues. Based on a story that stood out to me from one of these empowering women from Blackrock, the best way to conquer mansplaining is to speak up. During a meeting, she privately spoke to a colleague by stating that she did not appreciate his behavior. Her colleague was initially unaware that he mansplained her and became more considerate of her concern by going even further as to call out other men who were doing the same to her. Hence, I learned that women portray a crucial role in technology and that our voices need to be heard in order to produce vast changes. During our data science lesson, I learned about different types of biases spurred from collecting data from a limited audience, thus leading to inaccurate and unreliable conclusions. To resolve this, one must know their audience and must approach a wider audience. Thus, feedback from different gender, race, and background must be taken into account to create valid results.
Overall, being a part of Girls Who Code has been an exhilarating experience as I learned from my peers and others around me. This program has not only enabled me to develop as a computer programmer but as an individual as well. I also learned that coding can be incorporated in anything from creating fashion trends to creating scanners and machines to manage health. The best part about this program is being able to utilize your skills and apply it to real world problems. This program shaped me into a courageous, cognizant, and ambitious girl as I strive to tackle these issues and make my voice heard. After all, we are the game changers in this misogynistic and detrimental world.