Girls Who Code expands their campus outreach

Girls Who Code is a new initiative group where they will teach problem-solving through robotics. Photo Submitted by GROW

Georgia State’s Girls Who Code (GWC) is determined to include young girls in coding. With the help of robotics professor Dr. Ashwin Ashok, GWC created the sub-club “GROW,” shortly after GWC arrived at Georgia State. GROW is a women’s robotics club that President D’Anne Anthony described as being not just about robotics but also about solving problems.

“You have a problem, but how can you solve it is the bottom line,” Anthony said. “With computer science, you can solve anything with coding.” 

With this huge step they are pushing for in the tech business, GROW is more focused on website development while still working on different coding types. With the help of GROW and GWC, Anthony and  Vice President Melanie Gipson want to pave a path to success for girls in their program.

“We want to make sure to get project experience for them as our two biggest principles are sisterhood and product development,” Gipson said. “I think that the group program especially encapsulates these principles because it’s a sisterhood who’s working together to build these products for our community.”

Anthony and Gipson shared their dedication to making sure the future generation of women in tech are well equipped and qualified for the world they are about to face.

“We like to build up their confidence and build up their skills so that they are able to imagine their confidence and know that they are not alone in this journey,” Anthony said. “Beyond college, it’s still very male-dominated, so it’s good that we have these connections so we can build a better society for women.”

Formed in August 2019 and chartered in November of the same year, Girls Who Code gained a lot of interest from the Georgia State community. GWC, among other organizations, had to move its meetings to an online setting. Luckily for the tech program, the switch was easy.

Fearful about the “withdrawal in attendance,” the leaders of GWC made their meetings more interactive and comfortable so people would be more willing to attend meetings in their entirety. 

Following the impact of COVID-19, Gipson knew that the girls would need extra support from the organization’s leadership. 

“There was no face-to-face communication with each other over food or anything, and many people were really just depressed in general,” Gipson said. “In some ways, this pandemic has made us stronger because we all lifted each other up, and we’re there to support each other.”

Because club meetings consisted of food, personal and tech talk, the team knew they needed to spice up their program to keep the girls’ spirits alive.

“Usually, bringing food is a big push for people to come out to the meetings, but not having [food] due to meetings being virtual makes it hard to get people there,” Anthony said. “We started doing icebreakers because we want it to be fun and interactive instead of having to be bored for two hours.”

Regardless of the turnout, the pair is still content with “a consistent number of people coming without food and drinks.”

Now that Girls Who Code is in full effect online, they want to continue to reach the same amount of prospective members, if not more. With more students taking their courses online, getting the message to the right crowd is difficult.

This virtual semester, GWC often took their advertisements to various organizations and clubs that didn’t specialize in the same thing, but they still joined forces and made a reliable team.

“Throughout the year and a half, we have really enjoyed partnering with other clubs like Girls++, Women in Technology, Panther Hackers and Blockchain,” Anthony said. “Woman power is always good, so when we team up, everything is so well done and makes me so happy and motivated.”

Gender inequalities run rampant in the tech world. According to ISE, women make up nearly half of the entire workforce, while only 25% have jobs in the tech industry.

Anthony and Gibson both recall moments when male counterparts made a woman feel inferior in the workplace.

Gipson explained that every time she made a better grade than her male classmates, they would accuse her of cheating.

“Whenever I would make a better grade compared to a male classmate, they would ask ‘How did that happen?’” Gipson said. “Then they’d usually accuse me of not actually learning real skills or cheating.”

Anthony recognizes that one of the few ways to close this gender gap in the tech world is to teach women to stick up for themselves. 

“The problems I do see are not enough women being confident enough to speak up for themselves,” Anthony said. “You don’t have to be extra about it, but don’t allow other people to take your success.”

Anthony shared that the book “Brave, Not Perfect,” by GWC founder Reshma Saujani, is something that both Anthony and Gipson encourage through the program at Georgia State.

“When she came out with ‘Brave, Not Perfect,’ that was exactly our goal,” Anthony said. “But the first initiative is to be brave and get out of your comfort zone.”

In GWC’s future, a schedule full of events and workshops for this semester online will keep their members engaged. 

On March 8, GWC is holding an event called Tech Career Prep. This event will answer any potential questions about internships or any other tech-related opportunities and how to apply to them.

The following week, GWC will hold a Python workshop to begin building projects and allowing their sub-club GROW to take over. All events will be virtual until further notice. 

In a career field that is already competitive and intense, Anthony shares some lasting advice to encourage women.

“Push yourself to see things you’ve never seen before and explore,“ Anthony said. “You never know what you’re able to do without doing it yourself.”