Girls Who Code is a global movement to change the game for girls in technology.  Nevada City Rotary launched a Girls Who Code program to help young girls in our local community discover their own aptitude.  The intention was to create one Club of young girls ages 6-12 in order to to close the gender gap in computer science by teaching girls about programming, web design, mobile development and robotics.
Why? In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Today, it’s only 24%. The percent will continue to decline if we do nothing. We know that the biggest drop off of girls in computer science is between the ages of 13 and 17.
Since 2017-18 the program has been meeting at Seven Hills Middle School under the direction of Leslie May, 7 Hills Teacher.   With the COVID pandemic, the program was suspended.  We are hoping to reconvene the program in 2022 or 2023.
A bit of history: In January 2016 Nevada City Rotary teamed up with Bitney College Preparatory High School to launch the first Girls Who Code program in Nevada County The first Club met every Tuesday for five months under the direction of Ken Krulger, the president of Nevada City-based data consulting and training company Scale Unlimited and the club’s volunteer teacher. Demand was so great that we recruited a second instructor and started an additional club to meet on Wednesdays.  For 2016-17 school year, Stephanie Lewis, Stephany Lewis, Telestream, instructed with NU Freshman, Thea P. as a student instructor.
As reported in The Union's article Girls Who Code Coming to Nevada County, the idea to start a local Girls Who Code chapter grew out of a conversation Rotary member Dave Bunje had nearly a year ago with his cousin, who works for San Francisco-based Electronic Arts. Bunje’s cousin mentioned the company’s need for more female programmers, and also told him about Girls Who Code.
Bunje saw an opportunity locally to help close that gender gap in technology, starting with the community’s middle and high school students.
“For all of the tech progress we have in this county, we’re not real advanced with what we’re offering to youth,” Bunje said.
Eventually, Bunje connected with Chris Schneider, who teaches physics and computer science at Bitney, and is business partners with Krugler. Krugler agreed to teach the classes, and Bitney agreed to host the club on the school’s campus.
Russ Jones, the school’s director, said the mission of Girls Who Code fits in well with the school’s focus on integrating technology and media into its curriculum. The school offers coding, digital media and video production classes to its students in an effort to help them develop hands-on, career-oriented skills.
“We just believe really strongly that without some kind of knowledge of what the workforce looks like and what jobs are available, students are sometimes disconnected from their learning, and they don’t see a connection between what we’re asking them to learn in school and how it’s going to be applied after high school,” Jones said.
The club’s curriculum, which is provided by Girls Who Code, includes opportunities for the students to hear from guest speakers and take part in technology-related field trips, but the majority of the time is focused on project-based learning in programming languages Scratch and JavaScript, Krugler said.
The club focuses on a set of skills that isn’t always emphasized during the school day, especially among young women, Krugler said.
According to Girls Who Code, 74 percent of girls express an interest in science, technology and related subjects in middle school, but just 0.4 percent of high school girls choose computer science as a college major.
“I think a big part of it is this perception and subconscious feeling among teachers that, for example, programming is for geeky guys,” Krugler said. “And it’s not.”
Empowering female middle and high school students through Girls Who Code helps give them the confidence to pursue their interest in science and technology and make an impact in what have traditionally been male-dominated fields, Krugler said — and bridging that gender gap is long overdue.
“The industry is crying for this,” Krugler said.