Connecting Girls to Computer Science

Tools and Inspiration for Girls from Kindergarten to Career

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Written by…

Jana Cary-Alvarez Read bio

As of 2016, the number of female computer science grads had dropped to a 40-year low. Just 18 percent of computer science grads were women, showing just how much the perspectives, creativity and ideas of an entire gender were missing in the computer technology industry. There are many cultural factors: low grad rates mean awe-inspiring role models for young girls in computing are rare, and female camaraderie on the job can be hard to find. But a shift is in the works, aimed at providing the tools and inspiration our next generation of girls needs to love and grow the computer science industry. Find these resources in this guide, a one-stop for students, parents and educators ready to empower today’s girls to give computer sciences a try.

How to Get Started as a Girl in Computer Science

Starting something new is the hardest part, and for women and girls, computer sciences might seem intimidating or uninteresting. But women and girls of all ages can find reasons to explore computer science, from elementary school students interested in how the digital games they love work to undergraduates eyeing a lucrative and challenging career field. Regardless of why or when, the list below offers easy access to opportunities that help get girls started in computer science.

  • Join a Coding Club – Many major girls’ coding clubs are geared towards girls in middle school and older, but some clubs such as Black Girls Code and CoderDojo admit girls as young as seven. CoderDojos are often coed; however, there are girl-only chapters and meetings in some cities and regions.

  • Make Games & Apps with Coding – Apps like Hopscotch and ScratchJr introduce girls to coding by allowing them to make their own interactive games and stories. These apps are geared towards a younger audience.

  • Play with Coding & Robotics Toys – The New York Times and its sister site Wirecutter both have reviews and recommendations for computer science and other STEM toys. With these toys, girls can learn real-world applications of coding in fun and relatable ways, such as creating their own custom friendship bracelets.

  • Read Books on Computing – Girls Who Code, a leading organization for young girls interested in computer science, has published a series of young reader books about girls bonding over coding. The first book in the series, Girls Who Code: The Friendship Code, and the sequel are available from Girls Who Code directly and local booksellers.

  • Take Online Courses for Kids – Online courses for all ages levels are available for free at places like Khan Academy; the Intro to JavaScript is a good place to start. These courses are typically interactive, engaging and challenging for younger kids. Paid options, like on Tynker, are also designed for younger children.

  • Attend a Computing Workshop – Varying organizations host coding workshops to give girls hands-on opportunities to explore coding and computer science. ProjectCSGirls, TechBridge Girls and TechGirlz offer workshops and after-school programs across the nation.

  • Join a Coding Club – Girls Who Code has after-school clubs across the nation as well as immersive summer camps. See the map below for more details on local girls’ coding clubs and camps.

  • Join the Girl Scouts – Girl Scouts of America has launched an extensive STEM initiative geared towards getting and keeping girls interested in tech and science fields. Girls can earn badges in areas like digital art and innovation in addition to participating in exclusive Girl Scouts-only events with major tech companies.

  • Learn Coding Online – Girls can use online resources like Made with Code to learn coding basics, explore a variety of coding projects, and even connect with other girls also interested in coding.

  • Turn Crafting Hobbies into Coding – With programs like Sew Electric and DIY projects featured by Make Magazine, girls can combine crafts with electronics. These tools help introduce girls to computer science and the growing field of e-textiles.

  • Attend a Career Day Camp – Career days and job fairs can give girls general ideas about computer science professions. Additionally, programs like Microsoft DigiGirlz Day and Women in Technology’s Sharing Our Success offer an in-depth look at the technology industry.

  • Enter Coding & Engineering Competitions – Computer science competitions can provide girls with opportunities and experiences in the field that they can use to decide if they want to pursue computer science academically and professionally. Leading computer science and STEM competitions include Technovation and CyberPatriots (although CyberPatriots is co-ed, Women in Technology sponsors all-girls teams).

  • Explore Online Coding Classes – Full coding courses are available from Udacity, Codeacademy, and more. In addition to being free, these websites and others like them have courses available for beginners through advanced users.

  • Shadow At A College Program – Many colleges, from Kansas to San Diego, encourage high school students to shadow a current college student for a day. These allows girls to get a taste of what college-level computer science and programming courses involve.

  • Apply for Tech Internships – Internships are great ways for students to explore a field while gaining valuable experience. Explore Microsoft, Google Summer of Code, and Facebook University offer excellent opportunities and students can search Intern Supply for more technology-based internship opportunities.

  • Attend Conferences – A variety of conferences and networking events, such as the Grace Hopper Celebration or ACM-W events, are focused on women in computer science. Young women can use these conferences to meet professional women, explore possible employment opportunities and experience the sense of community fostered by these events.

  • Audit an “Intro to Computer Science” Course – College students interested in computer science and coding but not sure if they are ready to commit to a CS major can often audit courses. Auditing essentially means that, with the professor’s permission, young women can sit in on the class lectures and use materials without formally taking the course for a grade.

  • Visit a Girls’ Coding Club – Colleges with computer science programs may have student clubs and organizations, such as FEMMES or WICS, centered around the field.

Places for Girls to Try Computer Tech

A common misconception is that girls who excel at math and tech are better suited for computer careers, but computer and digital technology isn’t just for girls who are already good at it. Any girl can become passionate about technology, regardless of how curious, studious or creative they might be. If you’d like to get to know more about computer technology, find a local program below:

Did we miss your camp program? Email us the details with the subject line “Summer Camp Submission” so we can make our directory complete!

COMPUTER CAMPS

ADDITIONAL IDEAS

Conferences & Webinars

  • Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference

    The GIT Catalyst Conference showcases the achievements of women in a wide variety of technology fields and includes inspiring presentations by some of the foremost women in computer science. Students of all ages are welcome to attend, participate and meet other girls and women passionate about technology.

  • Grace Hopper Celebration

    The Grace Hopper Celebration is an annual conference for and about women in technology. Student-oriented events cater to undergraduate and graduate students, but high school girls will still benefit from many of the workshops, seminars and speakers.

  • National Girls Collaborative Project Webinar Archive

    The NGC is a directory of programs and resources for women and girls in STEM as well as their educators. Part of the organization’s resources is an extensive archive of webinar recordings. Although none of these webinars are live, girls can watch to get information on their interests.

  • NerdGirls

    NerdGirls is an organization dedicated to supporting women and girls in STEM. NerdGirls is preparing to launch Nerd Girls Nation, a talk show-type series with interviews from women in a wide range of STEM fields (including technology).

  • SciGirls Webinar Archive

    SciGirls webinars target a variety of audiences, so as a result there are sessions for nearly every girl interested in a STEM field, including computer science. Older girls and educators interested in organizing coding and other STEM events will also find a trove of programming ideas.

Conferences & Webinars

  • Seesaw Coding Webinars

    Seesaw, a K through 12 education resource company, has created free webinars on building apps and careers in technology as part of a computer science education week. Content is conveyed in age-appropriate manners, meaning that ages 4 to 8 have a different webinar on app building than the session for ages 9 to 18.

  • SmartGirls #STEM10

    Amy Poehler’s SmartGirls YouTube channel features a multipart web series about women and girls in STEM. Girls of all ages can find new role models and inspiration from the scientists featured in these videos.

  • Youth + Tech + Health Live

    YTH Live is an annual conference that focuses on the social and physical health issues facing youth today with a significant emphasis on using technology to confront these issues. Girls can use this conference and others like it to experience how technology evolves in response to social needs and to meet other young adults interested in technology.

Free Coding Lessons & Resources

  • Code Academy

    Code Academy offers a mix of free and paid courses for individuals looking to learn coding from start to finish. Courses for HTML, CSS, Python, JavaScript, Java, SQL, Bash/Shell and Ruby coding languages are available.

  • Code.org

    Code.org offers an extensive catalog of courses for students interested in learning how to code. The courses are split into three categories: grads K to 5, 6 to 12, and beyond.

  • Khan Academy– Middle School to Adult

    Khan Academy offers over 20 free courses on a variety of computer science disciplines including programming languages, animation and information theory. The courses range from beginner to intermediate levels.

  • Made with Code– Teens

    Made with Code is a program spearheaded by Google and focused on encouraging teen girls’ interest and participation in computer science and coding. Made with Code includes a variety of free projects and resources for learning how to code and creating apps, games and more.

  • MIT’s Scratch & ScratchJr– K through 5

    Scratch and ScratchJr help introduce students to the logic and structure of coding and programming by enabling them to create their own games and animations. Scratch is available as a desktop tool and ScratchJr is an app.

  • Mozilla Thimble– Middle School to Young Adult

    Mozilla (the creators of the popular Firefox web browser) created Thimble as a place for students to build their own web pages and learn about HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The program is free and allows users to explore coding through their own projects or with starter projects curated by Mozilla.

Mentorships & Job Shadowing

  • CoolTechGirls

    Through this organization, girls can attend sessions where they will meet women working in computer sciences who can be their role models and even mentors. Additionally, these sessions allow girls to learn about the different professions and careers within computer science.

  • DigiGirlz High Tech Camp

    DigiGirlz Camps are run by Microsoft and bring girls to tech centers to meet professional women in technology and computer science. While not true job shadowing, girls have the opportunity to learn directly from professionals themselves about the field and what working in computer science as a woman is like.

  • FabFems

    FabFems connects girls with professional women in STEM fields. Girls can find women working in the fields they are interested in and contact them to initiate a mentorship or even just ask questions.

  • Girls in Technology Mentor-Protégé Program

    Girls participating in the Mentor-Protégé Program are connected with a mentor who will support and teach them about working in computer science fields. Participants also attend Girls in Technology seminars and events with their mentors.

  • WIT Job Shadow Week

    WIT’s Job Shadow Week is an annual event in which high school girls shadow women in computer sciences. While the WIT program is only available in Atlanta, many local organizations and universities have similar programs or the resources to begin one.

Conferences & Webinars

  • Women in Technology Summit

    The WIT Summit is an annual conference with a variety of workshops, career fairs and expos. The event is geared towards entrepreneurs and professional women in computer science and can provide valuable networking opportunities and glimpses into the career field.

Free Coding Lessons & Resources

  • Code Academy

    Code Academy offers a mix of free and paid courses for individuals looking to learn coding from start to finish. Courses for HTML, CSS, Python, JavaScript, Java, SQL, Bash/Shell and Ruby coding languages are available.

  • Code.org

    Code.org offers an extensive catalog of courses for students interested in learning how to code. The courses are split into categories by age and include students beyond high school.

  • Khan Academy

    With courses for beginners and intermediate level students, Khan Academy offers over 20 free courses on a variety of computer science disciplines including programming languages, animation and information theory.

  • Mozilla Thimble

    Designed for students of all ages, Mozilla (the creators of the popular Firefox web browser) created Thimble as a place for students to build their own web pages and learn about HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The program is free and allows users to explore coding through their own projects or with starter projects curated by Mozilla.

  • Udacity

    Udacity offers free and paid courses in computer science and related fields at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels. Many of the courses were created with major collaborators like Facebook, Google, Amazon and more.

Mentorships & Job Shadowing

  • FabFems

    FabFems connects girls with professional women in STEM fields. Girls can find women working in the fields they are interested in and contact them to initiate a mentorship or even just ask questions.

  • MentorNet

    MentorNet pairs students with mentors in STEM fields. The program strives to find matches within the same field (and preferably same target profession) that will be most beneficial to the student.

Explore STEM Careers

Funding for Girls Who Want to Try Computer Science

Some of the best opportunities in computer science may be out of reach financially for many girls. However, the intense demand for qualified computer scientists—especially women—has created a push to provide funding opportunities designed specifically for underserved students. If you’d like to go to summer camp or take a computer class but aren’t sure because of the cost, check out some programs offering financial aid below:

HIGH SCHOOL SUMMER PROGRAMS WITH NEED-BASED FUNDING

K-12 MERIT GRANTS, AWARDS & FUNDED COMPETITIONS

CONFERENCE GRANTS

Expert Advice: Breaking into Computer Science as a Woman

Despite efforts to change the gender demographics in computer sciences, there are still some hard realities facing women who choose to study and work in this tech industry. From feeling isolated or singled out because of their gender to dealing with sexist remarks, women who are paving the way for the next generation are proof these challenges can be overcome. We’ve talked to women in the industry first hand, about some of the real-life challenges they faced, and to get advice on breaking into a male-dominated field.

ADVICE ON OVERCOMING LOW EXPECTATIONS

Suford Lewis, Freelance Computer Systems Consultant

Suford earned degrees in English and Mathematics from Harvard and Northwestern Universities before subsequently working in a variety of computer science fields such as speech recognition software. She has served as President of the Association for Women in Computing and now takes occasional projects as a semi-retired independent computer systems consultant. Currently she serves as the treasurer of the New England Science Fiction Association.

Challenge or Obstacle: LOW EXPECTATIONS

“When I was a freshman majoring in Physics I had a lot of trouble with the lab equipment, and with the math that only required memorization rather than being derived. My advisor was distracted and unhelpful, instead of trying to find out what the difficulty was, he was fine with me [just simply] changing my major.”

How to Overcome: Lewis says she received support and encouragement to continue from other women while a member of a professional organization. “Just being in the same room with 20 or 30 or more women who were in my field was encouraging.”

Computer Systems Career Information
  • Salary: $52,160

  • Job Outlook: 11 percent growth

  • Degree Level Required: Associate or Bachelor’s

  • Good Fit For: Working in computer systems requires logic and attention to detail. But you don’t have to know everything there is to know about systems technology before you land a job, Lewis says it’s more about “the ability to relate the problem” and that knowledge “can develop with experience”.

  • Job Advice: Join a women’s networking group or professional organization for support. “Not only do they contain useful women for you to talk to, they exist to inform and encourage you.”

Danielle Forward, Product Designer

Danielle Forward is the founder of Natives Rising, which promotes and celebrates Native American role models within technology industries and supports networking between Native students and professionals in technology. Additionally, she is a product designer for Facebook’s Internet.org project.

Challenge or Obstacle: LEADERSHIP

“Being seen as a leader is still less likely to happen for women than it is for men. Sometimes it’s as simple as not being heard during a meeting, being interrupted, or having your ideas less considered. [It] has a lot to do with who’s on your team, since different people are more or less aware of managing their biases.”

How to Overcome: Forward says positioning yourself on the right teams helps tremendously. Make sure you are respected and heard, “It’s much easier to be seen as a leader when you’re working with people who already see you as an equal. Try to find good allies—people who will defer credit to you when it’s due and make sure your worth is seen.”

Product Design Career Information
  • Salary: $47,640

  • Job Outlook: 4 percent growth

  • Degree Level Required: Bachelor’s

  • Good Fit For: Graphic designers don’t just have a good eye for design and creativity, they must also be practical problem solvers in order to develop products or images that function well. They must be team players, collaborating with many other talented, creatively-minded people to help get their projects off the ground.

  • Job Advice: “Persistence is probably the single characteristic that’s helped me accomplish so much in my life. Through persistence, you’ll gain confidence, because you’ll slowly see how much you can really do over time. You’ll also be able to brush off small slights like being interrupted or unheard.” Additionally, Forward suggests learning more about the women who have come before you. “So many great women contributed so much to this industry…walk into the room with confidence, even if you’re the only woman there.”

Jessie Duan, Product Engineer

Jessie is a product engineer at Quora. She is passionate about computer and science education, having cofounded Code.X and Girls Teaching Girls to Code. Originally from North Carolina, she holds an M.S. in Computer Science and B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Stanford University. In her free time, she enjoys triathlons and baking cookies.

Challenge or Obstacle: PERSONAL CONFIDENCE

“One of my biggest challenges has been myself: having confidence in myself. I still remember my first computer science class in college. I did well on the projects and midterms, but I was convinced it was just because I worked so hard. I couldn’t shake the feeling that computer science just came easier to everyone else. After all, no one was asking as many questions as I was, or going to office hours like me.”

How to Overcome: Duan admits she hasn’t completely overcome this (the official term for it is “imposter syndrome” and is a common issue for many high-achieving women) but being open about it really helps. “What I’ve learned to do is talk about it—it turns out almost all of my co-workers have felt inadequate at some point, and having open conversations about it helps both me and them.”

Computer Engineering Career Information
  • Salary: $135,800

  • Job Outlook: 12 percent growth

  • Degree Level Required: Bachelor’s

  • Good Fit For: “The best trait you can have in computer science is to be willing to take a risk and try. What’s special about computer science is that it’s incredibly easy to get feedback—you can write a piece of code and know whether it works in seconds.” That instant gratification can be great, but Duan says there is a flip side. “You have to be okay with the fact that a lot of the time, this experimentation will fail. That failure can be scary and discouraging—but if you keep trying, you’ll ultimately reach a better result.”

  • Job Advice: It could be different for everyone, but Duan says to “focus on why you love it.” Her passion is education, and she uses computer science to bring knowledge to millions of people. “Figure out what that motivation is for yourself—and when you have doubts, return to that motivation.”

Taraneh BigBow, Software Engineer

Taraneh learned the majority of her skills at Hackbright’s 2016 engineering bootcamp and has since applied those skills to an apprenticeship with Microsoft and her freshly-launched career. She has designed multiple apps for use in legal fields as well as a valuable disaster preparedness app specific to her home state of Oklahoma, where she is a member of the Kiowa Tribe.

Challenge or Obstacle: LACK OF RESPECT

BigBow recalls working on a project with a male co-worker: “We were assigned a project together and he was basically given the entire project to code himself while I begged for tasks to work on. I remember there were meetings that I had set up to discuss our project, and being ignored.”

How to Overcome: Despite this being her first job experience, BigBow did not get discouraged. “It did toughen me up. I shortly left that job and found another. I was once again surrounded by men, but I worked very hard to complete my tasks and feel respected as a woman engineer.”

She also built some incredibly useful skills from the experience. “I have learned to be firm and speak up. I’ve found that you have to have confidence, even if you feel uncomfortable.”

Software Engineering Career Information
  • Salary: $102,280

  • Job Outlook: 24 percent growth

  • Degree Level Required: Bachelor’s

  • Good Fit For: Above all, BigBow says working in software engineering is not for someone who has a strong ego. “I feel success in my career takes a lot of learning from others and teaching, but you have to be humble.” In her experience, condescending engineers aren’t as successful because they shut themselves off from learning and collaborating with others.

  • Job Advice: Don’t avoid a career just because it is in a male-dominated industry. “My advice is to do what makes you happy.” But BigBow cautions, a career in computing likely won’t come without some struggles. “Many times I have felt out of place being the only woman or just one of few women, but I love coding. I’m not going to let intimidation keep me from a career that makes me happy to be in. I fought hard to get this far.”

Elizabeth K. Joseph, System Administrator & Open Source Development Advocate

Elizabeth specializes in open source software and has been keynote speaker at over half a dozen tech conferences. Additionally, she is the author of The Official Ubuntu Book (8th and 9th editions) and Common OpenStack Deployments. Today Elizabeth is a developer advocate and consultant with Mesophere, Inc., and serves on the board of directors of Partimus, a non-profit that provides students and schools with computers and software.

Challenge or Obstacle: PROVING YOUR WORTH

“There is a lot of unconscious bias that exists in tech, so there are frequent assumptions that, as a woman, you aren’t technical. Especially working at the intersection of open source systems and systems engineering, both of which are on the extreme side of male-dominated, there’s a need to prove your worth whenever you meet new people or interact with another. It may not seem like much, but regardless of how senior I become, it’s still there.”

How to Overcome: “The best way I’ve found to overcome this is to surround yourself with supportive peers and mentors, and eventually by becoming a mentor yourself. It’s essential that you work with people who value your expertise and who will also stand up for you when someone makes a poor assumption about it.”

Systems Administration Career Information
  • Salary: $79,700

  • Job Outlook: 6 percent growth

  • Degree Level Required: Bachelor’s

  • Good Fit For: “The most important things are an interest in technology, curiosity and determination. Everything else can be taught. One of the key things to know about working in technology is that you’re always learning. It’s a fast-paced industry and the specific knowledge and tools change over time. You may spend five years working with a specific tool set, and the next five on a whole new one.”

  • Advice: “Technology has a terrible reputation for being a solitary endeavor, but this is not true at all. Teams are what deliver results, and you work very closely with these people for all the pieces to come together. Especially as we’re entering a time of increased automation in much of the tooling we use, personal relationships that you build in the industry and on the job will become increasingly more valuable.”

How Schools Can Support Female Computer Scientists

Some schools are already leading a charge to encourage and empower girls to learn and enjoy computer sciences. But resources for getting students involved are available for students of all ages, and schools that aren’t yet on board can use these tools to freshen up their technology curriculum, host fun educationally-based events and create projects that mix learning and play. Parents and students themselves can also use many of these resources to support girls’ learning computer tech.

Quick Link: Support Computer Science Students

Computer Science Teachers Association – An organization that advocates for computer science education in K through 12 schools worldwide. CSTA is made up of elementary, middle and high school teachers, as well as college and university faculty, school administrators, parents, business owners and government officials.

How Schools Can Take Charge

  • Develop Coding and Computer Science extracurriculars – By hosting coding clubs outside of the classroom, girls are given opportunities to join with groups of friends and develop an interest that does not feel like schoolwork.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

With a new division for elementary school students, this program is NASSP approved and provides many contest opportunities in computer science. Over 200 teams from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Africa and Asia already participate.

A complete curriculum for a before or after school club for students in the Seattle, Washington area. CK instructors provide everything needed to start a program, and come to work with kids on-site.

This Texas-based “Get Excited About Robotics” club was designed in conjunction with Texas Tech University, challenging elementary and middle school students to program LEGO robotics for competitive tournaments.

This program helps educators (or parents, or other adult) organize a technology-based activity for a group of fourth and fifth grade girls, free of charge.

An example of an elementary school tech club that uses free online tutorials to teach students new computer programs and skills.

Google’s CSFirst lets groups create their own club centered around learning coding and computer science using Google’s free resources.

  • Offer increased access to computer-based educational toys – Coding toys give young students the opportunity for hands-on and collaborative learning for use both within and outside of formal lessons.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Suitable Pre-K and Kindergarten, these educational toys help teach the logic of coding without using actual computers.

LittleBits kits contain color-coded pieces of circuits that give kids the ability to build, invent, program and hack their way into a variety of different themed projects, or program and power ideas from their own imagination.

By using familiar play dough with circuits and lights, young students learn some basic engineering and computer science.

This kit comes with a circuit board and lights and little else, yet with these tools girls can build basic command sequences and explore the fundamentals of coding.

  • Design new curriculum that’s accessible to all teachers – Free curriculum is available online with engaging, interactive lessons. Many are even created with teachers new to computer science in mind. Teachers, guidance counselors and parents can work with administrators to get more creative lessons adapted into their classrooms.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Code.org offers free fully-formed lessons in computer science and digital literacy; free workshops for educators learning to teach computer science are also available.

K12CS provides complete framework and guidance for teaching students K-12 computer science.

Edutopia’s extensive resources on teaching coding include this helpful guide of tools, apps and lessons available to educators.

A 3D design and electronics program for students and classrooms focusing on teaching concepts of 3D printing.

A technology project computer curriculum with age-specific lessons for K through 3rd Grade, 3rd through 6th Grade and up. Lessons are offered in multiple subject areas, from art to math, science, history and more.

  • Host tech fairs, fun nights and exploration expos – By hosting tech events, schools give students opportunities to learn about the different possibilities technology holds. Students can showcase their own work to their classmates and community while educators can see what ideas their colleagues have put to use.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

A program that combines tech with competition and fun learning. Teachers and organizers can get lesson plans, fun day or fun night ideas, or host tournaments with the resources found here.

This Georgia elementary school held a technology fair with projects from students third to fifth grade.

This Washington school district used a technology expo to demonstrate how technology is used in its classrooms and give the community opportunities to collaborate with educators.

  • Be responsive to students’ learning needs – Schools can create unique computer-oriented curriculum and learning experiences that give their girls (and boys) the opportunity to approach computer science in creative ways. Harness mentorship and tutoring opportunities and create classroom activity spaces that incorporate art, gaming, sports and other subjects your girls love.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

College students make excellent role models for younger students, and this tutoring program partnership from Rutgers University focuses on coaching girls in programming, game design and robotics to show them computer technology can be fun.

The GIT NX mentorship program hosts workshops focused on the next generation of girls in technology. Mentorship pairings are made with local professionals or university students; find your local chapter to get started.

This resource provides free tutorials and resources as well as kits available for purchase in the field of e-textiles.

One of the main topics covered on the Renovated Learning blog is focused on turning your school library into a STEM-based makerspace, all written by a middle school librarian.

Google’s Made with Code offers projects and event kits for girls and their teachers.

A group of schools across Hawaii participate in a unique program that connects students with community leaders and gives them hands-on learning opportunities.

This list of curriculum resources provides ideas for quick classroom activities and long-term lesson plans aimed at building middle schooler’s interest in computer sciences.

  • Create classrooms that inspire Research shows that girls are often turned off by the “computer geek” image and other negative stereotypes surrounding computer sciences. Tech classrooms and computer labs can do a few things to make girls (and boys) feel more welcome and excited to participate.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

This blog post from the ISTE provides a simple how-to for teachers and administrators looking to create maker-friendly spaces for kids to learn tech through play.

This directory by NC State University provides a number of classroom component ideas to get teachers thinking about how they can develop project-based spaces that are inviting and inspiring for girls (and boys).

  • Contact working computer scientists for help – By inviting women working in computer science to visit classrooms, or having companies host students for a field trip, schools can help inspire and connect girls with real-world role models.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

This program helps connect participating schools with professionals who can meet students or even participate in a career day.

The STEM Squared Exploration Day program offered by San Diego State University gives middle school students the opportunity to be on campus and explore new technologies and innovations that could motivate them to pursue computer careers.

In addition to in-store workshops for Minecraft and DigiGirlz coding programs, Microsoft stores host field trips for school groups, like this Coding Exploration Day trip designed by one New York middle school.

Not sure you can convince a computer scientist to be a role model or mentor? Use the Techbridge Girls resources and register for their role model training or partnership programs.

  • Host events that appeal to girls – One way to encourage girls to participate in computer science is to connect their outside interests and hobbies with technology. This can help keep girls engaged and interested even after the event.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

This career conference designed for girls in 6th through 9th grades that also includes a component for parents, all centered around reinforcing girls interests in tech. This page provides a way to find your local branch to organize a conference.

An example of an event that fuses digital art with coding for girls. This hands-on tech expo is Miami-based.

An online cybersecurity challenge for girls-only, that can be entered by individuals or teams of up to four. The best part: no prior cybersecurity knowledge is needed to participate!

A partnership between the University of Wyoming and local middle schools, this club encourages girls and boys to program robotics alongside computer science and engineering professors.

An example of an activity day for middle school girls; college students facilitate technology demonstrations, run design activities and host discussions to give middle schoolers a chance to explore technology.

Teachers can work with groups of high school students to run these tech and computer based workshops for middle school girls, to not only promote learning, but also provide mentorship.

  • Develop a computer science Pen-Pal exchange – Either by contacting an existing program or by starting a new one with a local college, university or business, schools can foster students’ interest in computers by connecting them with scientists and professionals in the fields. For girls, this can have the added benefit of giving them role models who prove women can thrive in the field.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

This pen pal program encourages friendship and inspiration, pairing middle school students from high-poverty schools and real scientists worldwide.

Through this program K-12 students can be paired up with Stanford scientists as pen pals.

  • Coordinate shadow days or business partnerships – Working with local colleges, high schools can provide girls more opportunities to explore computer science by encouraging them to shadow a current university student and experience college-level computer courses first hand. Job shadowing or partnering with current computer science professionals to help teach students can also help girls build computer career aspirations.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

This college program allows high school students of any age to shadow STEM undergraduates and sit in on courses.

Starting a partnership between schools and local businesses promoting computer science, such as the SYDCON Software Business Incubator program, gives girls excellent exposure to real-world applications of computer technologies.

An initiative supported by Microsoft Philanthropies, TEALS connects high schools and trained computer science professionals to team-teach students.

Teachers and school counselors can use this guide on how to implement working partnerships with local businesses for job shadowing, mentorship and more.

  • Create or sponsor a competitive team – Large-scale competitions often need faculty sponsors and, in some cases, can only be applied for by a faculty member. Be that person and encourage all-girl teams when possible. Students may not have the opportunity to participate in some of these events without the support of their school.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Sponsored by MIT and Verizon’s Innovative Learning initiative, this annual app challenge is for school teams across the nation.

Teams of students age 13 to 18 are challenged to develop ideas that help change and benefit the world in specific industries, including cyber technology and security.

An online cybersecurity challenge created by high school students for high school students, with teams of 5 competing against one another to find coding flags.

Take a lesson from this Michigan teacher, who’s mission has been to use competition-based learning to get more girls excited about computer science.

This competition provides a grant to a faculty member that can be used to fund a team of students’ technology research and project.

Started in New Zealand, this one-day online programming challenge features girls-only teams from around the world, using the programming language Alice. PC4G also boasts a no experience necessary format, with all events including tutorial sessions.

  • Encourage girls to be advocates, apply for awards – There are many women-only competitions and awards for high school girls. Encourage your female computer students to be advocates for closing the gender gap in computer science and apply for recognition for doing so.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Revolutionizing the face of technology is the main goal of this award program from the National Center for Women & Information Technology, which provides scholarships, computing internships, learning programs and more for girls who participate.

Girls who are advocates for closing the gender gap in tech fields can use video and computer technology to edit a short film essay for this award.

With a different subject focus each year, the National Academy of Engineering’s EGirl Essay Contest takes place each fall with winners announced in the spring or summertime.

  • Screen inspiring movies and discuss current events – For schools unable to take students on a field trip to technology centers or competitions, showing films and discussing current events around the topic of women in computer sciences can be excellent alternatives. This way, girls will still be able to see women working, and succeeding, in computer science.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

This is an award-winning documentary about different teams of young girls competing in the Technovation Challenge.

This film explores the reasons behind the low proportion of women in computer technology fields.

Although not a full-length film, this “short” focuses on three women working in computer science.

This transcript of an All Things Considered episode of NPR discusses some of the ways Harvey Mudd has inspired young women to pursue computer sciences. Listen, then talk about what could similarly work for your school.

  • Encourage girls to mentor and lead – It’s easier for students to break out of their comfort zone when they have a friend or mentor to encourage them. Giving high school girls the opportunity to connect with their peers or provide tech leadership can increase confidence and foster a more fun, inviting computer science environment.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

This near-peer mentoring program focuses on bringing high school and college women together with K through 12th grade girls to teach and mentor one another on the fundamentals of programming and computational thinking.

Give students the power to fix each other’s tech issues with a student-run help desk. This program at Burlington High School offers course documents to get your own student help desk up and running.

  • Create introductory courses for those with no background knowledge – It’s never too late to start learning computer science. But college women can feel discouraged in courses with male classmates who have had experience in and exposure to computer science. By creating a no-experience version of computer science introductory courses young women can learn without the pressure of knowledgeable peers.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

By altering the structure of introductory computer science courses to appeal to more women, Harvey Mudd College saw a radical increase in the numbers and retention of women majoring in computer science.

A work-at-your-own-pace format for first-time computer science students, providing a more relaxed experience that anyone who knows how to use an internet browser can do.

Even the most prestigious tech universities offer computer science programs for students with zero prior experience, in a half-semester format for students looking to test the waters.

  • Sponsor attendance to women’s conferences – Conferences are valuable networking opportunities and give women glimpses into possible future careers in computing and the ability to share what they’ve learned with others. By helping women attend more conferences, especially those focused on diversity in technology, colleges can empower girls to exercise their computer science potential.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Enable grad students to share what they’ve learned by funding their presentations at conferences, like this program from Carnegie Mellon University.

Another factor in Harvey Mudd’s rapid increase in young women’s enrollment in computer science courses is opportunity women have to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration Women in Computing.

The University of Washington brings the conference to their students. The Women in Science and Engineering event is complete with speakers, workshops and professional development, networking and career resource fair.

  • Join a program dedicated to increasing diversity in computer sciences – By joining forces with other institutions to face the issue of low female enrollment in computer sciences, colleges and universities can access each other’s resources and share ideas.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Colleges and universities that are affiliates of this program work together with other institutions to increase the participation of women in technology and other STEM fields.

A national consortium of non-profits and higher education institutions organized by the Arizona State University’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology.

This state-level effort allows advocacy groups, colleges and universities, K through 12 programs and businesses to collaborate on efforts that encourage girls to pursue STEM education and careers.

  • Offer computer-related scholarships, career counseling and alumni services catered to women – Students often make their college choices based on where they will receive the best funding and services. By offering more computer science scholarships to women, colleges will be able to support women in their programs.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Horizons is a scholarship that benefits women whose studies and work in computer science can be applied to national security.

Though not a woman-specific resource, this Alumni-Student matching program gives University of Washington students real-life perspectives on what to expect after graduation.

Florida Atlantic University takes the opportunity to connect it’s female students with potential employers through their STEM Career Fair for women-only.

This scholarship fund, in honor of Anita Borg, gives generous scholarships to undergraduate and graduate women in computer science degree programs.

How Girls & Parents Can Drive Change

  • Organize fundraisers – Sometimes schools cannot divert funds to fully equip a computer science curriculum or club. Parents and students can often volunteer their time to raise needed money for classrooms and clubs.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

While some ideas are geared for older students, an EBay Sale of old computer parts or donated items could teach kids about online commerce while earning money, and a dinner and a movie night is appropriate for all ages.

Chain restaurants like Panera Bread or Chili’s Give Back Nights may partner with local organizations to split profits during a fundraiser event.

Businesses may give local organizations like schools and clubs the chance to host money-raising events at their locations.

  • Start a local Coding Group – Schools may not have the resources and teachers may not have the time to run after school clubs. Parents who do have the time, however, can often work with schools to help run the club.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

CoderDojos are locally-run clubs for ages 7 to 17 that focus on coding; volunteers need no coding experience and can start a co-ed or even girls-only dojo.

Code Club is sponsored by Google and helps connect chapters across the world.

While the author himself is a programmer, this article still has valuable advice for parents looking to start a club for their children and classmates.

  • Collaborate with schools, teachers & community groups – Parents, teachers, guidance counselors and students all have different expectations for what schools should provide, but girls can grow their love of computers both inside and outside of school settings. Check out some of the following creative ways parents, teachers and community leaders are collaborating to connect and encourage girls interests in computer technology.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

An example of a computer club facilitated by a PTA group in Georgia.

Hosted at a church in Florida, this community computer club is a great example of taking computer learning beyond the classroom. The group provides classes, events, contests and computer donation services.

Learn how elementary school students in Montreal are teaching their own computer technology lessons to help senior citizens learn.

  • Volunteer to introduce girls to computer careers – Ideas could include field trips to local tech businesses or Career Days with computing professionals who can showcase their work. Parents can help teachers organize these events by volunteering and recruiting other parents and professionals, especially women, who can encourage and inspire girls.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Focus on bringing girls who graduated from your elementary school back in to talk to students about the paths they took to become successful professional women. You may have a few Alumnae in the computer tech industry that would make excellent role models.

This Arizona elementary school invited parents and relatives in STEM fields to participate in a career day.

Local businesses provide a great opportunity for students to learn how computer technology works in real-life. This blog by a software engineering company details how they invited students in for a field trip, and how you can, too.

  • Keep schools informed about outside opportunities – Schools and teachers are often busy with the day-to-day operation of the school and classroom, so parents and students looking for more computer science opportunities can help by keeping their educators in the loop.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Apple stores are located across the country and host field trips with emphasis on a variety of topics, including coding.

This Seattle-based museum offers many interactive exhibits and events for computer lovers of all ages. Check out your local children’s museum for computing-based exhibits.

Many local libraries and jumping at the chance to become all-ages maker spaces, offering family-friendly workshops like this Make It Yourself session on art-tronics from Piscataway Public Library.

Check out local chapters of girls in technology advocacy groups for events that invite parents and daughters to learn and work together, like this whorkshop from Black Girls CODE D.C.

  • Start a computer tech girl’s advocacy group chapter – Many national organizations that support middle school girls interested in computers have local chapters and representatives, and some don’t require ANY computer knowledge to get started.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

A group dedicated to introducing more girls to coding at a young age, with details on how to start your own chapter.

An IGNITE chapter connects local schools to support networks for female students interested in STEM and also provides leadership training to involved educators.

Girls Who Code serves girls across the nation and in various forms; its after school club provides girls with resources, projects and support for their interests.

Designed specifically for middle school girls, this chapter-based program operates internationally, with details on workshops, events and starting your own chapter on their site.

  • Get PTA support to host events – Parent-Teacher Associations often coordinate events for students, so PTA meetings can a useful place to organize computer science workshops for students, especially those that appeal to girls.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Microsoft can work with PTAs to host technology nights; there are even grants available for those that need funding help.

From the National PTA, this grant opportunity provides a $1,000 award to 55 local PTA’s who commit to hosting family engagement events focused on specific themes, including digital learning.

This guide is a series of activities that can be done with the more affordable Raspberry Pi mini-computer.

This article from the California State PTA provides ideas for no-cost and low-cost tech activities for students.

  • Encourage kids to teach and mentor others – Today’s girls are growing more tech-savvy on their own, why not develop what they already know to help others learn and grow? From putting kids in the teacher’s seat to having girls to encourage one another as they learn about computer technology, look for projects and initiatives that promote teamwork, leadership and peer mentorship.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

This program for K through 12 students offers a unique leadership opportunity, preparing students to teach the educators at their school about how to better integrate new technology into their classrooms.

An example of a middle school library program that encourages peer mentorship by creating a student-to-student tech and computer support team. Check out the Bay Shore Middle School Techsperts in action.

  • Find parent-student collaborative learning opportunities – Parents and their daughters can be positive examples for one another by teaming up to learn more, teach each other and get excited about computer science.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Check out these local collectives are collaboration spaces, that provide a place for tech makers to gather and build, supplying the tools needed (3D printers, circuit welders, etc.) to help projects come to life.

Get to know more about Hack-a-Thon opportunities in your area, like this program from the State of Hawaii that challenges everyone—students, amateurs and professionals—to develop programs that modernize state functions or services and better support IT workforce development in the state.

Take computer education into your own hands—from dinner table conversation topics to day trip ideas, these family resources are offered in English, Chinese and Spanish.

Enjoy learning computer skills alongside your daughter at a local Apple Store.

  • Sign up for competitions and challenge programs – Coding events and contests are often held outside of school hours as unaffiliated activities. Parents and girls can use these as opportunities to get competitive and build computer science skills outside the classroom.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

This organization hosts a variety of coding challenges for all groups K through 12.

The Google Code-In allows students to complete tasks and challenges set forth by participating organizations.

For individuals or groups of up to four, this program challenges middle and high school students to design their own playable video games.

  • Look to other teens for inspiration – Adults aren’t the only ones dreaming up new ideas for apps, software or other game-changing computer technology. Share programs by girls and information on young women who are computer science innovators and draw inspiration to develop their own tech ideas.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

A Washington, D.C. based organization founded by then-high school senior Kavya Kopparapu to further her passion for computer science and help other girls succeed.

Girls looking for inspiration from their peers can check out these annual media list, featuring teen computer tech creators like Jenny Xu, Priya Mittal and Alyssa Kapasi.

A series of motivational and inspirational videos by teen TED event speakers. Topics center around technology, entertainment and design. Archive clips include talks from successful teen software and app developers like Allison Wood and Natalie Hampton.

  • Get out there and DO! – Encourage girls to attend local workshops and events that include hands-on learning. By doing, high schoolers not only practice their skills, but also gain confidence in their computer science abilities, opening up opportunities to lead and inspire others.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Black Girls Code hosts many different workshops and hackathons for girls across the nation.

Become a licensed TechSherpa and begin teaching computer technology to others. This certification program helps students create their own tutorials to use to help others through technology education.

Cmbining civic engagement with gaming, this video game competition and annual festival encourages students to create digital games to help solve real-world problems.

This weeklong teen program is hosted at 23 different North American colleges, and gives students the opportunity to develop and launch their own app.

  • Become a TA or tutor – Teaching assistants are students, undergraduate or graduate, who work closely with professors to teach courses and support students. By working as TAs, women in computer science not only earn valuable experience but also serve as role models for the women they help to teach.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

University of Washington’s impressive computer science department employs over 100 undergraduate TAs who work with professors and assist in courses.

University of Maryland has high standards for TAs, requesting that they earn an A- in a course before applying to assist in it.

  • Petition your college for change – Students can use their power to advocate for and even create change on campus. Women can talk with their advisors and department heads about changes they would like to see in programs and on-campus events in order to create a more supportive and engaging culture for other women.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

Women who feel like outsiders in college computer labs or classrooms usually aren’t alone. Check out this article on how a Berkeley student was able to connect with like-minded women by forming an all-women campus FEMTech Club.

This step-by-step from the University of Nevada can give students who are interested in creating their own campus club a glimpse at some of the requirements.

Check your campus website for a Student Rights or Policies page, which should contain information on campus policies and provide forms and instructions for petitions for change, like this page from Merced College.

  • Start a scholarship for women in computer science – Young women can be supported and encouraged by scholarships that help fund their education or research. For parents, families or communities with the means a competitive scholarship can be used to support and even recruit women to computer science.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

The Michigan State University provides a how-to on how to start a scholarship fund.

This article provides some of the basic steps for creating a scholarship.

Here Scholarship America give advice and guidance for starting a memorial fund.

  • Support fellow female computer science students – Peer support is an amazing tool for helping women stay the course as they deal with social issues, academic struggles and general adversities they may experience during their computer science education and careers.

    Examples, Ideas and Inspiration…

At University of Massachusetts Amherst, women peer mentors have had a remarkable impact on fellow students, resulting in a 100% retention rate for female engineering majors after a year of guidance.

An online forum for university women and professionals in computer technology fields, created by Anita Borg and operated by the Anita B organization.

This example of a peer-to-peer program from LSU works to help new students in the College of Engineering with the college transition and introductory courses, and also does community outreach coaching K through 12 student robotics teams.

LIBRARIES, COMMUNITY CENTERS & CHURCHES: HOW ANYONE CAN START A PROGRAM

It’s not just up to schools and parents to help girls to succeed in computer science, communities can also play a part, hosting programs and events that teachers and school-affiliated organizations may not have the resources for. Learn more about what and how libraries, churches, businesses and other community gathering places can help by making computer science more accessible to all students, especially girls.

Offer Community Coding Classes

Coding classes can not only help teach girls, but communities as a whole. With these tools, organizations can host lessons on coding for all ages, from kindergarten through adulthood.

Hour of Code – Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction on coding that includes activities. This page explains how to join the movement and run a class.

Code.org – Code.org offers coding and computer science lessons for K-12 (and beyond) that can be used individually or adapted to a group setting.

Library Journal Professional Development Resources – Provide a workshop with live sessions or online collaborations and discussions using course materials from Library Journal, such as this community coding session.

Clubs and workshops allow for more collaborative work than coding classes while also giving girls the tools needed to learn coding. Additionally, projects help girls to experience how coding intersects with the physical world.

CoolTechGirls – This non-profit encourages school-age girls’ passion for technology and is also an example of a program created in partnership with a local government entity—the City of Dublin, Ohio.

CS First – This club, created by Google, provides computer science projects and workshops for students. As this page notes, anyone can teach a CS First program.

Girl Develop It – Girl Develop It offers coding courses to women over the age of 18 in various communities, listing its many city chapters here. If your city isn’t already participating, this page will help you get started.

Girls Who Code Clubs – Girls Who Code offers resources and opportunities for girls in middle and high school, with easy to use information on how to start a club with no experience necessary.

TechGirlz Techshopz in a Box – This workshop kit gives organizers the plans and tools they need to hold a coding event for girls.

Although public libraries offer computers, many people still struggle to get connected online. Computer science is impossible to learn without access to computers; with innovative ideas for increasing public access to computers, more girls will be able to harness the power of technology and develop interests in computer science.

The Clubhouse Network – The Clubhouse Network is a group of computer centers, staffed with mentors, who provide youths safe environments to learn about technology.

Training Wheels – Lexington Public Library created a mobile computer lab in order to offer classes from underserved populations throughout the city.

Mount Abraham High School’s Public Computer Lab – This high school in Vermont opened its computer labs and library to public use outside of school hours.

Education funds can be used in a variety of ways; from supporting internships to even creating entirely new programs that serve a community’s unique needs. Education funds can become a cornerstone of support for schools and the students they serve.

Ke Alahele Education Fund & Program – This program for and by Hawaiians provides youth interested in technology with opportunities for research, internships and workshops.

Omaha Schools Foundation – A large portion of the Omaha, Nebraska education foundation goes towards funding classroom projects.

Pinellas Education Foundation Next Generation Tech – This Florida competition, funded by the Pinellas County community, pairs students with businesses as they compete to build software.

Researching College for Girls Who Love Computers

While college-bound girls should not be deterred by the prospect of computer classes with mostly-male peers, they can also explore schools and programs that are working to actively support them better and reduce the gender imbalance. So, which colleges graduate the most women in computer science?

As a girl interested in computer science, also consider these tips when researching college options:

  1. Don’t Discount Women’s Colleges – Women’s colleges are often perceived as isolated and uptight, but in reality, they are just as academically challenging and rigorous as co-ed campuses. As an added bonus, students can often even take courses from associated (and co-ed) colleges. Learn more on why you may want to consider a women’s college as a computer science girl, and see which women’s colleges are producing the most computer science grads.

  2. Look at Campus & Program Diversity – Even campuses with a very diverse student body may still have a lack of diversity in their computer science departments. See Forbes’s meticulous breakdown of which campuses had the best enrollment of women and minorities in STEM considering the composition of the student body.

  3. Ask What Efforts the College Is Making – Despite being a very small school, Harvey Mudd College in California has gained national attention for its redesigned computer science program and resulting increase in female enrollment. Now, Harvey Mudd has partnered with AnitaB.org to create a program called BRAID to help member and affiliate colleges improve the diversity of computer science enrollment.