Silicon Valley, known for being the home of great tech firms (e.g., Google, Apple and Oracle) and startups, is not known for its diversity. There are very few African Americans to be seen in the Bay area’s profitable hi-tech play ground. This was highlighted in a story done on Black tech entrepreneurs last year by Soledad O’Brien for CNN’s Black in America series.
To go one step further, there are hardly any African American women in the field. According to the National Center for Women in Technology, only 25% of computing-related jobs in 2009 were held by women, 2% of those women were Black.
One woman is planting the seeds to change the color and gender balance of the technology industry.
Kimberly Bryant, a Biotechnology/Engineering professional, launched an after-school program in the Bay area in 2011, called Black Girls Code to address the lack of diversity in the tech field. Instead of playing games, Bryant wants to teach young women how to build them.
Black Girls Code is a non-profit program for elementary and middle school girls (7-14) of color. Its primary goal is to introduce them to computer programming and technology.
The girls learn computer programming basics in Ruby and Python, two popular programming languages that are used in developing software, web and gaming applications.
In addition to teaching the girls how to code, the program also helps them develop self confidence and teaches them leadership and entrepreneurial skills. The students are also exposed to the technology industry with field trips to big tech companies such as Facebook and Google and startups.
After just one year, the program is in high demand. Due to increasing interest, in the Bay area and beyond, Bryant is looking to expand the program and create Black Girls Code chapters in other cities in 2012 with the aid of community-conscious technology and engineering firms.
Hopefully one of these chapters will appear in Los Angeles soon.