Girls Who Code has worked with more than 500,000 students in the decade since its inception in 2012, ensuring that women and nonbinary people recognize that their contributions to the tech sector are vital. Now, the organization is introducing new programs to meet the needs of students entering the workforce.
Girls Who Code alumni earn computer science degrees at seven times the national average. Yet navigating the job-interview process has proved challenging. In response, the organization launched a Technical Interview Prep program and a Leadership Academy last year, with plans to run both programs on a school-year cycle.
The Technical Interview Prep program had served 462 students as of August 2023, while the four-month Leadership Academy has provided mentoring and networking opportunities for 100 students, who mainly came from underrepresented groups.
As it equips former students with career-building tools, Girls Who Code is also engaging current students with an effort meant to ensure that they see themselves reflected in the technology they use—particularly video games. “Many of our students are one of the only or a handful of women or nonbinary students in their CS classes,” says chief program officer Daniel Voloch. Women and nonbinary characters are also less common, and when they are represented, they often fit a certain mold: skinny, feminine, and white.
To help bring video-game characters more in line with the real demographics of players, the company launched Girls Who Code Girls last December to teach students character design, encourage them to build more representative avatars, and even submit their creations to gaming companies. Since the program began, participants have spent more than 1,300 hours building custom avatars.
Now, the organization is developing a curriculum based on the intersection of coding and AI. Rather than fearing the advance of artificial intelligence, Girls Who Code wants to equip its students with the necessary skills they might need to optimize its use.
“We learned that our students are excited about the possibilities and are already using generative AI tools for school, to explore personal interests, and to navigate complex conversations,” CEO Tarika Barrett told Fast Company via email. “However, they are also concerned about ethical implications, bias, and the potential impact on the workforce.”
After piloting a data science course this past summer that served 1,600 high school students, Girls Who Code is preparing to launch an AI course next summer, and will launch a challenge for its middle school, high school, and college-age students in coding clubs that will focus on AI and financial literacy.
“When new technologies emerge, our priority is to ensure our students feel empowered by the immense possibilities of their growing skill set and to consider ways to broaden their exploration of diverse career options available in the tech field,” Barrett says.
This story is part of Fast Company’s 2023 Brands That Matter. Explore the full list of companies that have demonstrated a commitment to their purpose as a brand and cultural relevance to their audience. Read more about the methodology behind the selection process.