[CodeHers CLE]

Women make up 50.5% of the United States’ population, yet, according to the American Association for University Women, they occupy only 28% of jobs in the US technology industry. This gender gap starts young, as a study from Microsoft explained that although many girls originally become interested in STEM around age 11, the initial spark usually extinguishes by the time they reach 15, largely because of a lack of female role models in the field. Early access to computer science education delivered in all-girls spaces can change this dynamic. Unfortunately, few programs reach girls at this crucial stage and most fail to provide an environment that gives girls the confidence to pursue computer science. Indeed, Cleveland State University’s CSforCLE initiative reported that only one-third of schools in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District offer any computer science classes at all, and initiatives focused on girls are even fewer and farther between. It is clear that the lack of accessible and welcoming technology education for Cleveland-area middle school girls is an issue that must be addressed. My initiative, [CodeHers CLE], aims to do just that by building a community of girls and women interested in computer science. Through running workshops teaching the Python and HTML programming languages to Cleveland-area middle school girls, we have expanded access to collaborative, inclusive, and supportive computer science education for local girls. We have partnered with Breakthrough Charter Schools and the Cuyahoga County Public Library system to offer events at a variety of locations, reaching a total of 52 girls. At our events, girls learn foundational programming skills, build their own websites, work with female high school volunteers, and hear from female guest speakers. By bringing together students who share the experience of being women in STEM, we build strong communities of code(h)ers and encourage a passion for computer science in the Cleveland community.

Funded by Cleveland, OH (June 2024)