This post was originally published on Seattle Medium
The William Grose Center For Cultural Innovation has launched Black Girls Code, Unlocking Imagination With Code, a six-week coding program that will help girls learn how to create shapes, customize colors, animate, and invent through code that they can not only display on their charm but share with others.
The Black Girls Code program is designed for middle school-aged Black girls who are interested in learning to create their own personal ‘imagicharms’ using Python programming. The program is specifically designed to empower Black girls in technology and help promote diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry. Participants will be mentored by experienced instructors who are passionate about technology and education.
“It’s wonderful to give the youth of this community an opportunity to gain a new skill set around people who look like you; this is a way to keep the community,” said Tech Assistant Javin Nash-Harris. “For them to have this, they’ll look back and remember that they were a part of it, and it’ll be way bigger. I’m excited for the program and to be a part of it.”
Tech Lead Aryn Davis says that learning how to code is an important skill for young people to learn.
“We’re entering a technical world, so what does it mean for Black people to not be left behind? What does it look like to have more technical skills? As we’re becoming more technical, it’s almost like every industry needs somebody who can code,” says Davis.
According to zippia.com, gender diversity in the tech industry is something that isn’t widely discussed but commonly understood. Men hold 73.3% of all tech jobs, leaving women with a percentage of 26.7% of tech positions. Women who break into the competitive male-dominated tech world are continuously met with lower pay despite doing the same grade of work.
“When we look at the percentages of Black people in technical roles, it’s very little,” says Davis. “It’s harder for girls to try something new because we’re socialized to be good at whatever it is already. That’s why we’re encouraging them to try new things that will greatly help them throughout their career.”
“We have to have more spaces and programs for Black girls like this, and Black Girls Code can be the difference if they want a future in STEM or another path,” said William Grose Center Program Coordinator Henry Igwala. “Black Girls Code can create a pipeline to form connections straight from this program to internships and on into the workforce.”
The diversity and wage gap is something that Nash-Harris believes can be bridged, especially when teaching young Black girls coding, especially in a state where Amazon, Google, and Microsoft reside.
“It’ll fill in the wage gap, and that’s important for young Black ladies to get paid properly what technology people are being paid, not just with pay but access to everything as well. It’s extremely important for them to know how to code, but we have to make it cool and normalized.”
“I see us [Black women] in the next 10-20 years taking over,” says Nash-Harris. “It goes back to representation in STEM; it’s important I think for the Central District community. It’ll add to our history here. This program can have an enormous impact on this community, especially with Amazon, Google, and Starbucks here. Seattle itself is filled with a lot of startups.”
“The program is great, impactful, and most importantly, it’s fun. It’s like, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of it? Learning code and being all technical is good to do, but it doesn’t have to be boring or just like school,” said Davis. “We’re going to have fun; this is a place where you come and learn.”
What was once a fire station has now turned into a culturally innovative center for youth and the community, helping them connect with other participants and staff who look like them and come from the same walks of life. Black Girls Code will help change the perspective surrounding coding and what that means for Black people; therefore, it has a sense of normalcy going forward.
“Growing up here in the Central District, this space was a fire station. It’s getting rebuilt and renovated into a space for the community,” stated Nash-Harris. “To be a part of a program like this, I’ve gotten to network. It’s a safe space for me as well as the youth.”
“It’s cool to see that you can leverage your own skills. It’s cool to know I can use the skills from my job that got me here and help form my sense of community,” said Davis. “I see this as pouring into my community, and I hope we can get some students and help start changing their lives as well.”
Black Girl Code is still accepting applicants. You can register online at https://www.williamgrose.org/events.
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