I’ve just returned from my fourth PASS Summit, and it was the best one to date.
One of the highlights each year is the Women in Technology (WIT) Luncheaon on Thursday. This year was the 12th annual event, and I was invited to attend. PASS board vice president of marketing, Denise McInerney, sat down for a Q&A session with Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls CODE.
The mission of this organization is, “to introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders, coders who will become builders of technological innovation and of their own futures.” Kimberly has been an engineer for many years, but it was when her daughter expressed an interest in computers – through gaming – that she realized that there weren’t a lot of role models and mentors for her daughter, or other young women. She set out to create an organization that exposes young women of color to the technology industry.
The organization has been incredibly successful. They have reached over 3,000 students since 2011! This is a very inspiring story, and it led to many great questions from the audience. A few of my favorite – and my thoughts – are below.
One of the questions was not about how we get more girls into the pipeline, but how do we retain women in technology? (A large number leave at the mid-point of their careers.) Kimberly suggested a stronger support network for every woman is needed – teachers and mentors. I agree with this. I have a long list of strong, smart people – men and women – I can reach out to when I need career advice or am having a bad day.
I had a question for Kimberly that I asked. She had been talking about getting girls to go to college and graduate with Computer Science degrees. I said that I knew many successful women – many in the room! – that didn’t have CS degrees. Conversely, I think that all young people – boys and girls – should learn some basic programming and data skills because every profession can use them. Kimberly replied that yes, programming skills are necessary for everyone, and that one of the best things about Black Girls CODE is that so many more girls are introduced to it at a young age. I’m a huge supporter of this, because not all kids get CS classes of any kind in school.
The last question I loved was from Allen White (blog | Twitter), one of my dear friends and mentors. He asked, “I’m neither female nor of color. What can I do to help?” I thought this was a great question that needed to be asked. Kimberly responded with, “Reach out to someone who doesn’t look like you, and mentor them.” To me, this is profound, and can be applied to anyone – male or female, young or old, of any background. By mentoring someone that doesn’t look like us, we also are able to grow as people.
There were many more questions – and answers! – so for a full recap I suggest you check out the recording on PASS TV! I look forward to seeing what PASS has in store for us at the 13th annual Women in Technology lunch at Summit 2015!