Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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July 1, 2019

TechGirlz Inspires Middle School Girls to Create with Technology

By Joshua Eyaru

Do you have a phobia for coding? You are not alone; in fact, according to Very Well Mind, about 10% of people in the United States have specific phobias.

 

The good news is TechGirlz has made it easier for girls to overcome coding fears and learn the Python programming language through a free, three-hour workshop that introduces them to coding basics. The girls participate in hands-on activities like solving puzzles to practice the skills they have learned.

 

TechGirlz’s mission? To inspire girls.

 

The TechGirlz mission is, “to inspire middle school girls to explore the possibilities of technology to empower their future careers.”

 

Group of girls around a computer

 

Donna Cusimano has worked at TechGirlz since 2015. In her role as curriculum manager, Cusimano works with subject matter experts to develop new curriculum and update topics for TechGirlz.

 

“I attend each newly developed workshop to evaluate the content, take notes and observe,” Cusimano said, adding that she carefully considers feedback from attendees when finalizing a new workshop plan.

 

Cusimano also manages the “TechCamp in a Box” program, helping camp coordinators choose and use curricula for summer camp programs, no matter where they are located in the United States.

 

Recently, Cusimano converted TechGirlz’s Python workshop to make the high-school-level curriculum appropriate for elementary-aged girls.

 

Making tech less intimidating by making it fun

 

Key to all TechGirlz workshops is making technology user-friendly and fun, she said —empowering girls to believe that they are capable technologists for whom a career path in a still-predominately male industry is possible.  

 

Instructor helping girls at computers

 

“The simplicity embedded in it makes children find programming in Python fun, engaging and simple,” she said. “In fact, the examples used make kids bring their daily games played with peers into a coding class.”

 

Not only are attendees excited about using Python in the workshop, Cusimano said, but they want to continue programming beyond their TechGirlz experience.

 

After a Python programming workshop held June 8, girls surveyed about their experience gave a rating of 4.2 to the questions, “I want to use what I learned” and “This made me more interested in tech,” on a scale where 1 was strongly disagree and 5 was strongly agree.

 

Individually, girls provided comments that included “I liked how it was challenging” and “I liked learning all the functions” – exactly what excites Cusimano, who is driven by the girls’ enthusiasm to learn new and challenging technology topics.

 

“With these stories and a simplified curriculum, I believe we can break this phobia and bring back our programming dreams to life,” she said.

 

Anyone can introduce technology to middle-school girls, thanks to TechGirlz. You don’t have to be an IT expert to volunteer your time and enthusiasm. Visit TechGirlz to learn more about their free curriculum and to sign up for volunteer opportunities.

 

Creating IT Futures: Proudly aligned with TechGirlz

 

Creating IT Futures recently acquired TechGirlz. The two mission-aligned entities are merging organizations to identify, inspire and prepare the next generation of technology workers.

 

By adding TechGirlz to its portfolio of successful, adult-focused programming, Creating IT Futures now offers a continuous path of tech prep from middle school well into adulthood. Creating IT Futures plans to build out the TechGirlz model so it can easily expand to more cities.

 

Techgirlz and CITF staff

 

Equipping more women to serve as technologists is a priority for Creating IT Futures. Data from the National Science Foundation shows that between 2004 and 2014, the number of women graduating with a bachelor’s degree in computer science declined. Today, women make up nearly 50 percent of the U.S. workforce — but hold less than 25 percent of STEM-related jobs.

 

“One of the clearest ways to erase gender disparities is by creating a path beginning in adolescence that leads to higher earning wages over a lifetime,” said Charles Eaton, CEO of Creating IT Futures. “In today’s world, any path to higher earnings for a meaningful segment of women begins and ends with technology training. The quality and impact of TechGirlz’ programming is key to better addressing gender inequalities earlier in the talent development pipeline.”

 

Founded in 2010 by Tracey Welson-Rossman, TechGirlz has reached more than 15,000 girls through its free, fun and interactive curriculum and workshops taught by industry professionals, leaders and students. TechGirlz’s open-source courses inspire curiosity, impart confidence, and build community as the foundation for girls’ technological future.

 

Joshua Eyaru, who is from Uganda, is a fellow with Atlas Corps assigned to Creating IT Futures. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Kampala International University and is interested in non-governmental organizations management. (His undergraduate degree is in information technology.)

 

In 2014, Eyaru co-founded Youth for Reconciliation and Leadership, a community-based organization promoting peace and digital literacy in rural Serere, Uganda. He also works part-time as a digital skills trainer and has helped more than 5,000 young people acquire skills as part of the Google Digital Skills for Africa project.