Girls Who Code bridges gender gap in technology careers

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Story by Bella Utley, Contributing writer 

The Girls Who Code (GWC) club at Murray State is approaching their second year of helping young girls from the community bridge the gender gap in technology.

The GWC club is a free online course for girls from 6th to 12th grade to gain knowledge and practice coding.  The online course is directed through Canvas, and since it is a club and not a class, the girls can work at their own pace.  

Ginny Kelley, facilitator of the program, started the organization last year because she personally related to computer science and coding with children.

Kelley said when she applied to start the club in 2015, there was a test for the facilitator to ensure she could guide the students properly, followed by a background check for the students’ safety. This year, she said she was able to renew the club with ease.

Kelley said from October to May, girls work on concepts in coding that lead up to group projects that benefit the community. The girls learn at their own pace with facilitators nearby to guide them.  Local speakers go to meetings to spread information, and there are optional field trips available for the girls.

According to the Girls Who Code website, the nationally affiliated club is building the largest pipeline of future engineers by following an educational approach that prioritizes sisterhood, problem solving, computer science concepts and extended activities.

Kelley said it was not difficult for her to get the club started because she works within the College of Education and Health Services and she had already been working on coding with kids through the Kentucky Academy of Technology Education, so it was not new information to her.

Through the Kentucky Academy of Technology Education, more clubs are becoming available in the region, with the closest being in Hopkinsville.

Facilitators are presenting in schools and spreading information about this opportunity, as no high schools in the area offer any coding classes.  

“We are raising girls to be perfect, and raising boys to be brave,” said Reshma Saujani, founder of the GWC national organization. “By teaching girls to code, I am teaching them to be brave.”

She started the program in 2012 with the hope to build a sisterhood that lets girls know they are not alone in their studies.  

“These girls will not defer their dreams, and their dreams have never been more important to this country,” Saujani said.

Mika Vickery, freshman from Eddyville, Kentucky, did not know about the GWC code club, or that Murray State offered it.

“I believe it could benefit the community, but especially environments like school systems where girls are actually using computer technology,” Vickery said. “Joining the club could open up interests that some girls did not know they even had and it could be made into a career.”

The GWC club meets every Monday for two hours beginning at 4 p.m. at 1004 Alexander Hall.