Black Girls CODE, a San Francisco-based organization that creates opportunities for young women of color to learn how to code, engineer, and build new technologies, is looking to expand to 10 other U.S. cities. The heavily debated and discussed Common Core (the new federal mandate of K-12 learning standards), with its emphasis on reading and writing, does not interpret coding as a 21st century literacy. Therefore, many schools are cutting technology programs at a time when they should be augmented. Black Girls CODE, an organization operating outside of a traditional school structure, needs continued public support to ensure that young women are prepared with the skills that will help them to build their futures.
Digital Divide, a term established in the late 20th century to describe the inequities in technological access between white and black communities, was redefined by Dr. Adam J. Banks in his book Race, Rhetoric, and, Technology. Although Dr. Banks' seminal text was written before the proliferation of smartphones and tablet technologies, it presupposes a future where students have access to BYOD (bring your own device) technology in their classrooms. Banks identified the chasm between computer users and computer programmers as the great 21st century divide for people of color. It is not enough to have access to computing technologies— students need to understand how to build them.
Women of color are particularly behind in the movement toward building a more digital future. According to the National Center for Women and Informational Technology, Latinas comprise only 1% of the computing workforce. African-American and Asian-American women fare only marginally better at 4%.
"Black Girls CODE ameliorates the digital divide by providing access and exposure to technology skills and training to girls from underrepresented communities (African American, African, Latina, and Native American). By providing these young women with the skills and mentorship to enter the tech marketplace as creators and not just consumers, we build opportunities to allow these women a greater voice in the innovation economy and add to the economic empowerment of families, communities, and our nation," Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls CODE, told PolicyMic.
As I have noted in a post for the EdTechWomen blog, there are many reasons for young women to learn to code, but none more important than the fact that coding has become the new literacy. Not being able to read code will soon be the equivalent of not knowing how to read words. Thanks to Code.org's viral video "What Most Schools Don't Teach," more and more young women are considering the call to code. Without adequate preparation in technological literacies, young women (and men) are sure to be left behind.
Bryant asserts, "It is an economic imperative that companies look to bring a diversity of voices and perspectives to the table as the our economy shifts and demographics change. Black Girls CODE is a catalyst to bridge the divide by driving this conversation and serving as a model for programs promoting inclusion and access." What is perhaps the most disturbing is that many public school districts continue to cut technology courses because state and federal mandates do not include rigorous technological proficiencies as a graduation requirements. Only 10% of American high schools offer AP Computer Science. For comparison that means 14,517 students took the AP Computer Science exam in 2012 as opposed to the 194,784 students who took the AP Calculus exam. Even those students who did take AP Computer Science are taking this course as a junior or senior in high school. Computer programming and literacy must begin at an earlier age.
Black Girls CODE hopes to raise $125,000 by midnight July 26 to ensure that their program can expand to Denver, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Memphis, New Orleans, New York City, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. Continued public support can only be achieved if we spread the word about the vital educational resources organizations like Black Girls CODE provide to local communities.