Black Girls Code Tackles Tech Stereotypes

Kimberly BryantIn the battle against racism and steroeotyping against the African-American community, a new organization out of California is raising interest and praise. Black Girls Code is based out of San Francisco and was founded by a technology entrepreneur named Kimberly Bryant. Bryant started the volunteer organization as a way to teach African-American girls how to succeed in the world of technology, utilizing computer and engineering skills to get ahead in the workplace and in life. At the same time, the group is teaching those young girls about confidence, friendship and planning for the future.

Black Girls Code is already earning praise for the work it’s doing with youth in the San Francisco Black community. That’s no small feat considering the program has only been around since April 2011. In fact, the first Black Girls Code session did not finish until December 2011. During that first program 14 girls, none older than 13-years, learned about the basics of computer programming. The course took six weeks and was held at an area college prep school. Each girl got to learn and work with a unique software programming tool that allowed them to demonstrate their lives and personality through a graphical game they created. The children were also able to blog online about their experiences, heightening the reach that Black Girls Code has gained nationwide. During the weeks of the program the entire group also took field trips to nearby technology businesses to learn what it takes to succeed in a tech-driven career.

The impact of the first program was immediate. Interest skyrocketed and Bryant has already made plans to add extra sessions to the program. Some will be aimed at even younger girls while others will focus only on teens, utilizing more difficult concepts. All of them will move toward the same goal and break the stereotype that young women of color cannot or will not succeed in computer-related jobs in these modern times. And Bryant isn’t focused only on the African-American community. She says that recent studies point to a disturbing lack of Asian and Latina women in the computer and technology fields as well. Considering that the job market in those same fields is well-paying and growing it is imperative that minority women are given the education and motivation necessary to break through and gain success there. Bryant looked around the city and saw schools with limited technology resources, very few mentors and relatively little focus on the sciences. The realization that an extracurricular program could provide all of that spurred her to create Black Girls Code and develop the curriculum it teaches.

At first glance it would seem a tall task to expect adolescent girls, many of them spending their summer vacations in these classes, to find interest in the Black Girls Code program. But Bryant and the volunteers the program uses have geared everything toward the interests of that age group. It is designed to show the girls that there is a future in the gadgets they use and love. Many enjoy playing with iPods, cellphones or tablets. Black Girls Code teaches that those gadgets came from somewhere and someone and shows the girls that with the proper training they can find a future in producing the next hit piece of technology.

Finally, the curriculum was based around the idea of collaboration. It was realized that sitting alone working on a programming assignment would quickly get tedious and turn the girls off to the idea of a future in technology. So projects are designed with groups in mind. The girls learn to work together, communicate and connect over the same subjects. It promotes friendship and workplace communication and makes the entire program more accessible, fun and ultimately a runaway success.