Working in digital marketing at startups and other tech companies has been inspiring and sometimes, culturally isolating for me. You won’t see many sisters at a garden variety startup. In fact, there are very few women of color who are steered toward science, technology, engineering or mathematics (#STEM) during the course of their education.
The gap between those who benefit largely from technology and those who do not is referred to as the digital divide. Studies show that the women and men in the African diaspora in the United States are not entering the fields of science and technology at the same rate as people of European descent.
Research shows African Americans may have mobile internet access, but many lack crucial broadband connections for home computers. Huffpo reported that Aaron Smith, a Pew Senior Research Specialist was quoted as saying, “black/latino students are about as likely as white students to go online — but white students are much more likely to do so from home, while minority students are much more likely to rely on access at their school or in a library.” Minority student in the U.S. are also more likely to access the internet via mobile devices.
Accessing the internet at school, in the library or on a mobile phone is helpful, but such intermittent access is by no means an equalizer. The digital divide is still visible.
Addressing that digital divide inspired Kimberly Bryant to found Black Girls Code. Her mission statement is clear:
There’s much to be said for making any challenging journey with people of the same cultural background.
Much has changed since my college days, but there’s still a dearth of African-American women in science, technology, engineering and math professions, an absence that cannot be explained by, say, a lack of interest in these fields. Lack of access and lack of exposure to STEM topics are the likelier culprits.
By launching Black Girls Code, I hope to introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders, coders who will become builders of technological innovation and of their own futures.
Recently, I took two girls to the Build A Webpage Workshop at Pace Seidenberg, organized by the New York chapter of Black Girls Code. After the day-long workshop ended, the girls began reflecting on their schooling, diversity and more. I’m just amplifying their voices. Here are their reactions after the day-long Black Girls Code experience: