Hundreds of NJ clubs trying to keep girls interested in computer science
From 37% in 1997, the percentage of computer scientists who are female is projected to drop to 22% by 2027.
Unless there's something fueling the desire to get into the field, and a place to belong for young girls already interested.
On a mission to close the gender gap in technology, international nonprofit Girls Who Code is the launching pad for nearly 350 clubs in New Jersey alone. The after-school clubs, for those in third to 12th grade, is designed to get females "where the jobs are," and the initiative has the statistics to back itself up.
"We started these clubs as sixth-through-twelfth-grade clubs because there's something called the middle school cliff, when girls stop believing they can be computer scientists," said Eve Balick, a Kinnelon-based regional partnership coordinator for Girls Who Code. "Our alumni become computer scientists at 15 times the national average."
Balick said the Garden State's club numbers, while already considered a national leader, are "just scratching the surface" of potential. Girls Who Code has partnerships with several large school districts throughout the state, but also seeks out libraries, nonprofits and other areas that could serve as host to a club.
Despite the name, Girls Who Code does not exclude boys, and kids with no computer-science knowledge are encouraged to participate.
A handful of "summer immersion" programs are underway at top tech companies around the state, including Prudential and Johnson & Johnson. One hundred 10th and 11th grade New Jersey girls have been chosen for the seven-week career-building experience.
The experience is free, and participants are offered a need-based stipend.
"We realize that they're foregoing a, minimum wage probably, summer job and they need some money to go to the program," Balick said.
The 2020 summer program application will open in January.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.