Bridging the Opportunity Divide

It’s a Woman’s World Now, and Women Are Making It Better for Everyone

March 26, 2014
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It’s a Woman’s World Now, and Women Are Making It Better for Everyone
Brent Stirton/Getty Images
Trailblazer Kimberly Bryant is working to increase the number of African-American women in tech fields.

In the past few years, coding has taken on a life of its own and is seen almost as a universal digital gateway to a lucrative career. Kimberly Bryant, a biotech engineer, is harnessing the power of code education through Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization she launched in 2011. In just three years, it’s become so successful that CNN just named Bryant to its CNN 10: Visionary Women list.

The idea came to Bryant when her 12-year-old daughter, a heavy gamer, found herself as the only girl of color at a weeklong computer programming camp at Stanford University in California.  Her daughter’s experience was all too familiar: In the 1980s, Bryant was the only African-American woman in her electrical engineering classes, and to this day, she still finds herself completely outnumbered in her field.

Black Girls Code aims to not only amend the dearth of black women in the technology industry workforce —they make up only 3 percent — but to turn the face of the industry on its head.

“We don’t want to just teach the girls to code,” said Bryant, who now works full-time for the nonprofit. “We also want to teach them to create businesses and to become business owners and become like the next Mark Zuckerberg or the next Bill Gates.”

To do so, the organization teaches computer programming and entrepreneurial skills to girls of color, ages seven to 17, attempting to train them to become tech leaders of the future. The program goes far beyond Bryant’s home base in San Francisco, reaching 2,500 girls through chapters in seven U.S. cities and in Johannesburg, South Africa. Eight additional chapters across the country are planned for 2014, with the goal of reaching 1 million girls by 2040.

“We like to say we hope to be like the Girl Scouts of technology, having many different chapters in many different states, as well as many different countries,” Bryant told CNN.

“I’m doing something to make the world a better place for her child,” she adds.

Bryant’s goal to foster a global atmosphere of female success echoes the stories of the rest of the members of the CNN 10: Visionary Women list.

In honor of Women’s History Month, which lasts all of March, CNN told the stories of 10 women working to help other women through education, emotional support, and career motivation. They’re all working toward that goal via unique paths. Victoria Budson, executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School, is shattering the wage gap through data-driven means like a gender action portal and professional partnerships. Molly Cantrell-Kraig founded the Women With Drive Foundation to provide transportation to women who otherwise find education and job training inaccessible. Other women included are making fashion-forward clothing for Muslim women and teaching women about menstruation.

“What they have in common is a mission to empower their fellow woman,” CNN wrote in the introduction. And what Bryant, along with the others, represents is a passionate commitment to training the next generation of female leaders.

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