YWCA Greater Charleston Launches Second Tech Coding Club for Girls

Following the successful launch of its inaugural Girls Who Code club one year ago, YWCA Greater Charleston has launched a second free coding club for girls.

The club, which held its first session on November 11, is meeting in the computer lab at Morris Brown AME Church at 13 Morris Street in downtown Charleston from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays. The club is open to preteen and teenage girls.

Implemented in partnership with Girls Who Code and The Carrie R. Grady Women’s Missionary Society at Morris Brown AME, the club is designed to lower the gender barrier for young women in the technology field. Because the industry tends to pay above-average wages, breaking this barrier is important for the economic advancement of women, especially women and girls of color.

Participating girls will join a sisterhood of supportive peers and role models as they learn key concepts behind computer programming languages, whether their goal is to build an app, create a website, or program a robot. No coding experience is necessary to participate in the club.

This club represents an important next step for YWCA Greater Charleston. “Our long term goal is to offer coding clubs in other communities across the Charleston region,” said LaVanda Brown, the association’s executive director. “Ideally, girls who begin attending a club in their early teens can continue with later clubs, learning more advanced skills, honing their interests, and continuing to build relationships with other girls and women in the technology field.”

The program has earned the support of AT&T, which provided a $5,000 cash grant needed to expand the coding clubs to other locations in the Charleston region.

“AT&T has a longstanding commitment to a wide variety of educational initiatives, with an emphasis on STEM-based programs that make a real difference in helping students prepare for success in life,” said Jack Mitchell, AT&T’s regional director of external affairs. “We are pleased to have this opportunity to support YWCA Greater Charleston and all the girls who will benefit from this Girls Who Code program.”

The program has also garnered the support of Morris Brown AME Church, which is hosting the club.

“We welcome the Girls Who Code club and look forward to working together to get the community’s girls actively involved,” said Shirley C. Scott, president of the church’s Carrie R. Grady Women’s Missionary Society’s Young People Division. “We hope to help them prepare for success in the workforce and high-salary careers, and to give them the opportunity to close the gender gap in technology.”

The White House has noted that women in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields earn 33 percent more than those in other occupations and experience a smaller wage gap relative to men, yet females are underrepresented in these fields.

According to the Girls Who Code website, the technology gender gap has been worsening since the 1980s, when 37 percent of all computer science graduates were women. Today, women are on track to fill just three percent of computing-related jobs by 2020, the nonprofit says, and girls are being left behind: their interest in computer science ebbs over time, but the biggest drop-off happens between the ages of 13 and 17.   

Of the girls who participate in Girls Who Code clubs, 65 percent say they intend to major or minor in computer science, according to Girls Who Code.

Parents and girls interested in attending a coding club should contact Antoinette Barnes, program director at YWCA Greater Charleston, at 843.722.1644.

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