There is a serious divide in the booming tech economy and girls – especially girls of colour – are being left behind, said Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code. Bryant wants to introduce 1m girls to coding by 2040.
Bryant pointed out that in 2011 when she started Black Girls Code the number of women studying computer science at US universities stood at 35pc.
“That has since plummeted to 18pc. For women of colour, African-Americans account for only 3pc and for Latino women that is less than 1pc.”
Bryant told this morning’s Inspirefest in Dublin that she believes girls should be encouraged to learn code early at six or seven years of age. “We need to have a goal of helping to understand the power of being builders and creators of technology, not just consumers of technology.
“Web design, robotics, mobile app development, game design – we are determined to make sure they find a place for themselves in technology as creators and not just consumers.”
Bryant said that at the end of 2013 only 40pc of the world’s population had basic internet access. “Women are coming online very slowly compared to their male peers.
“Besides this lack of access to technology, we also know that too few women are leaders, innovators and decision-makers in an increasingly technology-oriented world.”
While the tech world has awoken to its obvious failings in terms of diversity and the reality that not enough women hold senior leadership positions in tech companies, Bryant said that less than 2pc of women of colour hold leadership positions in the tech industry.
She said the next wave of technologies will require imagination, ingenuity and experience.
‘We will equip these girls with the skills to hack human rights’
“By limiting women in technology we are limiting ourselves to only half of the world’s solutions.
“A global technology revolution is taking place and if women and girls aren’t part of it, the future for women’s rights is bleak.
“We are hoping to teach our girls to be builders and not just consumers. We need to teach our girls to solve problems, hack the issues that are important to them and their world.
“We need to teach our girls to exhibit self-confidence and self-ethicacy. The message is not about our ability as technologists, the idea that we are not capable or equipped to build technology, which is not true. We need to teach our girls to become leaders and animators of tomorrow.”
Bryant showcased the Ohana app, created by a team of students at Black Girls Code. Ohana is an app that alerts family members, friends and authorities if a woman feels unsafe and prevents girls from being abducted; it was a finalist project at the Global Hackathon for Women’s Rights.
“We believe that as a human family, we have an obligation to protect the rights of women and girls everywhere and create tools for empowerment.
“We will enable opportunities for connection and empowerment and imagination and create a clear path for these women who are marginalised and not paid attention to.
“We will equip them with the skills to hack human rights,” Bryant concluded.
“We must be sure that girls have a seat at the table. These are the leaders for technology, without a doubt. If we empower them and uplift them then we will create solutions that will create a better world for us all.”
Inspirefest 2015 is Silicon Republic’s international event running 18-20 June in Dublin, connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM with fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity.