The Georgetown University Law Center partnered with Black Girls CODE and the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality to host more than 50 girls from the Washington, D.C. area at its “Build a Webpage in a Day” event on Aug. 22.
Girls aged 7 to 17 were tasked with writing and creating code on computers provided GULC and Black Girls CODE, while their parents learned ways to help their daughters thrive in the computer science field at the event held at the law center.
“I think it was a wonderful success,” Center on Poverty and Inequality Executive Director Rebecca Epstein said.
Planning began after a January conference in association with the White House emphasized increasing marginalized girls’ access to careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Two White House advisors attended the “Build a Webpage in a Day” event and encouraged the girls to stay in the field of computer science. Roy Austin, from the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, and Kimberlyn Leary, an advisor to the White House Council on Women and Girls, also communicated the president’s appreciation of their interest in the computer science field.
“Two White House officials stood up in front of all these girls and their parents and said, ‘ [President Obama] supports what you’re doing,’” Epstein said. “That’s an incredible message for these girls to get.”
Additionally, Obama’s administration invited girls in attendance at the law center to the White House for an upcoming Champions of Change conference.
“What we know is when we give outstanding young people like this a chance, they can succeed,” Obama said in June. “They just need a little bit of help.”
The event also served as the launch for the D.C. chapter of San Francisco-based Black Girls CODE, an organization that helps minority girls begin to pursue careers in STEM fields. Since its 2011 founding, the organization has expanded to locations across seven states and to one international location in Johannesburg, South Africa,.
“When [Black Girls CODE] contacted us … I really jumped at the opportunity,” Epstein said. “We welcomed the chance to give directly back to the community.”
Black Girls CODE Founder and Executive Director Kimberly Bryant said she is optimistic about expanding to the D.C. area.
“We’re very happy with how [the event] was and how the expansion to the District has gone for us overall,” Bryant said. “I’m really happy that we’re in D.C.”
Bryant also stressed that Black Girls CODE is a way for young minority women, who are underrepresented in the field of computer science, to bridge the workplace gap.
“There’s only about three percent of African-American women that graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science,” Bryant said. “That number translates directly into what we see in the workplace.”
Epstein agreed, and added that one of the Center on Poverty and Inequality’s main goals is to prepare underprivileged citizens for future careers. She said events like this are needed to increase awareness and interest for females in the computer science field.
“At the Center on Poverty, one of the issue areas we focus on is the development of workplace skills,” Epstein said. “We were grateful for the opportunity to help highlight the assets that girls of color can bring to the field if it were more diverse.”
Bryant said that certain moments during the event stood out to her, specifically. The first was at the end of the day, when the girls presented their code to their parents, and the second was in the morning, when parents learned about STEM’s influence on the lives of their children.
“There’s some very significant magic that takes place in those settings,” Bryant said. “It’s always a very celebratory event for everyone.”
Following the success of “Build a Webpage in a Day,” Epstein and Bryant agreed on possibly collaborating again to continue to raise awareness for underrepresented demographics in STEM fields.
“We’re always open to considering ways in which to highlight the needs and the assets of girls of color,” Epstein said. “We would welcome the opportunity to do more events in the future.”
Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.