This year’s PASS Women in Technology luncheon takes a different format. In previous years, there is always a panel of women who give their thoughts and discuss trends, issues, opportunities for women in technology. This year, there is one guest – Kimberly Bryant (@6Gems) – who is the founder of BlackGirlsCode.com.
Kimberly shares that she started the organization when she realized her daughter, who was 12 at the time, might go through the same isolated path that she took. She is an electrical engineer but has travelled an isolated road both in university in the workplace – usually the only one, or one of very few, women of color. She shares that she wishes she could do something so that the path her daughter takes would not be as isolated or riddled with hurdles. That is when she started Black Girls Code.
Black Girls Code is a non-profit organization that provides free programs and events that encourage, introduce and teach young girls, age 7-17, to code, program, experiment. They have had events like hack-a-thons and robot expos, where the girls try their hands on lego robot building and simulations.
A number of people from the audience and from twitter have posed questions from Kimberly.
One question was: what can the industry do? Kimberly answers, hire more women. Unless there is enough presence, change both in culture, mentality and even unconscious biases may not happen.
We also need to start introducing STEM programs to young girls … before they reach high school. Start as early as possible. She shares a story about one of her star students. The student was entered into the program by accident. The parents were actually looking for a program for their older son when they stumbled upon Black Girls Code. The student was actually interested in medicine (which is good), but Kimberly said maybe try their programming program and see if she will like it. This student turned out to be a really stellar student, even offered by the school to teach programming classes at her school.
Kalen Delaney also comments that the change in thinking needs to happen both ways. While parents can introduce to their daughters some female role models they can look up to, parents should also advise their sons that it’s ok (and cool) to like smart girls 🙂
One lady stood up and mentioned – “if there is no door, build one. After you build it, enter it”. Kimberly adds, “after you enter, reach back out and pull a few more with you”.
The WIT luncheons are always very inspiring to me. I think my personal journey also crosses this road. But as Kimberly says, every woman’s journey is her own. We all have to look at the whole picture, look at each other, and help each other out.
Grant Fritchey (@GFritchey) live blogged the event – see his blog here (http://www.scarydba.com/2014/11/06/pass-summit-2014-wit-luncheon/)