This Nonprofit Organization is Giving $1 Million to Underprivileged High Schoolers

It may not come as a surprise that engineering and computer coding classes have a poor ratio of female to male students.

Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization, is doing something about closing that gender gap by offering $1 million in scholarships to underprivileged girls. Last week, the company made the announcement to CNNMoney that they will be funding girls to attend their summer programs.

Founder and CEO Reshma Saujani can empathize with young students who have a passion for learning, but face financial hardship. Saujani, 40, told CNN:

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“We found a lot of girls needed to have [some compensation] to replace their summer job or pay for transportation.

“I, personally, was one of those girls. Even if I were passionate about coding, I wouldn’t have been able to participate.”

Saujani, the former deputy public advocate of New York City, founded the organization in 2012 to empower girls to pursue careers in technology and engineering.

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She explained that finances have kept students from participating in the summer programs in previous years. This is the first time that the nonprofit has offered scholarships to students. The scholarships, from donors including General Electric, will reportedly range from $400 to $1,400. Approximately 1,560 girls are predicted to participate in the programs this year.  

High school juniors and seniors are eligible to apply for the intensive summer programs that run for seven weeks. The courses cover a number of subjects including web development, design, robotics and mobile development. They will be offered in 11 different cities including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C.

The gender gap in technology is glaring as more and more computer specialist jobs become available. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million job openings to fill. To have a split number of male and female workers in the field, 700,000 women will need to fill those spots.

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Tech companies are aware of the gender gap disparity as well. About 1% of women study computer science and 20% of software developers are women. Companies including Accenture, Adobe and Facebook are a few that are sponsoring Girls Who Code’s summer programs by offering mentorship and resources. AT&T has also been a major support to the nonprofit having hosted three summer programs last year.

Marissa Shorenstein, president of AT&T New York, knows that the work of Girls Who Code makes an impact on the lives of the girls who participate in their programs. Shorenstein told CNN:

“As a tech company ourselves, we need for more diversity within our company.

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“It opens [girls] up to the possibility of a career in computer science, which we know is a gateway to better employment for them and a brighter economic future.”

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