It’s Saturday morning when a group of 15 young girls from varied backgrounds begin to trickle into a small classroom at St. Mary’s University. As they take their seats, their accompanying parents are led out of the building, and their sleepiness turns to chatter.
They are young girls, after all – but they aren’t here for a lecture. Today, the 12-18-year-old San Antonio girls are being treated to a party. A code party.
This September, Girls Inc. of San Antonio is partnering with Google’s Made with Code initiative to show young girls how they can use code to get creative and to understand the extensive role coding plays in their everyday lives. The program is designed to increase the number of young women entering the male-dominated field of web programming.
Historically and statistically speaking, female programmers have long been underrepresented in the web development field.
“At times, people may assume that girls find programming and computer science intimidating,” said Laura Villarreal, fundraising manager with Girls Inc. of San Antonio. “We hope this party, and others like it, allow girls to become engaged creators of our future in technology. We hope that girls are able to walk away from our Made with Code parties knowing that coding is an option for them as they explore their career opportunities.”
Hosted by St. Mary’s University’s School of Science, Technology and Engineering, the parties introduce coding to girls through five creative coding exercises, including coding a custom 3D-printed bracelet, customizing a photo, creating custom avatars, building an animated GIF, and creating a custom music track. The activities are all self-paced and don’t require any prior programming experience. Girls Inc. provides the tablets, and the party guests get to coding.
The Girls Inc. of San Antonio expert staff is on hand to guide the girls through their exercises and create an open dialogue about coding and how they use it daily, whether they are aware of it, or not.
The question of “What would you do without technology?” stumps the majority of those in the classroom today. But, Maria Josefina Serra, a student at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, understands that with technological advancement comes the opportunity to advance with it.
Serra’s mom is a software engineer at Fort Sam Houston, whom she credits with introducing the 15-year-old to programming. “I thought it would be a really good opportunity to learn a new skill, especially in this age where you need these types of skills,” Serra said. “Technology is advancing every day, so I thought this is a good opportunity for me.”
The 10th grader goes on to say that part of introducing young girls to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math has a lot to do with the education they are receiving.
“Teaching should continue to be advanced,” she said. “My friends who go to other schools don’t really care. You don’t really understand if you’re not taught something that’s going to be a better part of your life in the future.”
There are many factors as to why women make up only 24% of the STEM workforce today. Gender stereotypes, a lack of female role models, and insufficient funding and resources for early learning all play a role. Introducing young women to the possibility of careers in the field of STEM is essential. Many girls have an interest in STEM early on, but because that interest is never nurtured through education, peers, or adults, the interest eventually wanes as they get older.
Anna Muñoz admitted that her daughter, Isabella, had never heard of coding before the Girls Inc. Made with Code event. As a student at Young Women’s Leadership Academy, however, one of her assignments is learning how to create a web page.
“I thought this would be something she could learn and use throughout her school years,” Muñoz said. “She’s 12 years old, starting young, and I thought this was good. She loves math, so anything that she can learn and anything that’s available to her, I want to be able to bring to her,”
The Made with Code events are part of Girls Inc. San Antonio’s push to create a STEM curriculum in our community.
“We want to be sure that the future of San Antonio is full of strong, smart, and bold women, especially in the future of technology,” Villarreal added.
The nonprofit organization is currently registering girls from 12 to 18 years old for their next Made W/Code parties taking place at St. Mary’s University on Sept. 20. The parties are two hours long and girls can attend either the 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. workshop.
Those interested can register online at www.girlsincsa.com. It’s free, and space is limited.
In addition to Girls Inc.’s STEM initiatives, visit these local STEM programs designed to help San Antonio youth:
- Bits, Bytes, Bots
- Boys & Girls Club of San Antonio’s Full STEM Ahead
- San Antonio Youth Code Jam
- Venture Lab
- Codeup Teens
*Featured image: Working together at a Girls Inc. of San Antonio Made with Code party. Photo by Tabitha Ford.