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        three young women of color at a table studying and smilingthree young women of color at a table studying and smiling

        Day of the Girl

        Black Girls CODE

        This International Day of the Girl, Maisonette is thrilled to partner with like-minded brands to offer ten percent of proceeds from our Girl Power Edit to Black Girls CODE, a nonprofit organization that is leveling the playing field for girls of color in STEM globally. Here, we catch up with their Founder and CEO, Kimberly Bryant, on the importance of representation, closing the digital divide and what she is most looking forward to in the years to come.
        You were inspired to found Black Girls CODE after your daughter attended computer science camp with peers who were all white—and mostly male. Can you tell us about the moment you knew you would start something and what you hoped to achieve?

        The creation of Black Girls CODE was rooted in cultivating a community where girls like my daughter, Kai, could see themselves reflected in STEM. As my daughter began to develop a strong interest in computer science, I noticed the parallels between her experiences and those that I encountered along my own journey in the tech space; often being the only girl or woman of color in the room. Although we resided in Silicon Valley—the heart of the tech renaissance—the opportunities for her to acquire the skills needed to thrive in the industry, specifically in environments where instructors and students looked like her, were almost nonexistent. Furthermore, there were not many programs that put the focus on tech innovation and entrepreneurship and empowering youth to become creators rather than consumers. The seed for Black Girls CODE was planted out of a determination to fill those gaps, not only for my daughter but for other girls of color who wanted to pursue careers in the industry but felt hindered due to the lack of representation. What started off as a mother’s determination to create safe spaces where my daughter could realize the fullness of her dreams in STEM evolved into a movement that is changing the status quo surrounding racial and gender diversity in tech. Our #futuretechbosses will undoubtedly change the landscape of the industry.
        And how has that mission evolved since 2010?

        Black Girls CODE started nearly a decade ago with 8 girls sharing 6 computers learning how to write lines of code and to date we’ve reached over 20,000 students across 15 chapters within the United States and in South Africa. The receptiveness and growth of our programs since 2010 has further illustrated the vital need for safe spaces where girls of color can explore their potential in the STEM industry. One of the things that we’ve learned and witnessed is the effectiveness of having the element of cultural competency embedded within the fabric of our programs. Through our programming and initiatives we’ve also discovered what resonates with our students from an educational standpoint and the importance of relevancy as the technological landscape is ever-changing.
        One of your goals at Black Girls CODE is to raise awareness of intersectionality and to look beyond the women in technology lens to what it means to be a Black woman in the field or a Latina woman in the field. Can you speak to why that is so important and to how it drives the approach you have taken?

        Although there may be overlaps, experiences within the tech industry are not monolithic. To effectively address the barriers and disparities that exist within the industry, it is important to do so through an intersectional lens. At Black Girls CODE, we go beyond teaching our students how to write lines of code. Cultural efficacy is at the core of our mission. We want to empower our students to fully show up as their authentic selves in spaces where they are often underrepresented. It is no easy feat, but it starts with working towards building their confidence and helping them develop an unwavering sense of self-awareness. From a programmatic approach, we integrate relevant cultural practices within our event offerings. In doing so, we are able to empower our students to implement cultural expression in all areas of their lives and use STEM as a tool to drive change in their local communities and beyond.
        From your experience in your own career, can you speak to the importance of having a community and colleagues who look like you?

        I am a firm believer that in finding our tribe we become true agents of change. As women of color, we endure so much whether that be in our workplaces or society in general and it is crucial to have spaces where we can just simply “be.” The power that lies in the connectedness through identity fosters an environment of mutual support and shared strength. Representation is everything and for many of our girls, our programs are the first time when they’ve seen themselves reflected in the technology whether it be through an instructor or a fellow student. The sense of belonging is the foundation for building self-efficacy.
        We are currently living through an unprecedented time. The digital divide has become even wider during the pandemic as school has shifted online. What do you worry about most in this moment and how is Black Girls CODE working to minimize the consequences?

        The digital divide is a longstanding issue that has been exacerbated by the public health crisis. Access to education is a right, not a privilege. Addressing the issue starts with dismantling the socioeconomic barriers that stand in the way of equal access to education. If there isn’t a concerted effort to drive change, I fear that students will be locked out of transformative opportunities. At Black Girls CODE, we’ve implemented a loaner initiative where students can borrow tech equipment to participate in our programs and we’ve teamed up with like-minded organizations to raise awareness about the issue.
        The motto at Black Girls CODE is “Imagine. Build. Create.” What do you most look forward to imagining, building and creating in the years to come?

        We are on a mission to teach one million girls to code by 2040. In the years to come, we hope to expand into new cities and elevate our programming so that we can further our impact and reach. We want to continue educating and empowering girls to become innovators in STEM fields, leaders in their communities, and builders of their own futures.
        Maisonette is so excited to partner with Black Girls CODE for International Day of the Girl. What do you plan to do with the proceeds from this initiative?

        The proceeds from our partnership with Maisonette will be used to support Black Girls CODE’s programming, including in-person and virtual workshops and enrichment activities in 2021. BGC hosts workshops, career panels and coding events throughout the calendar year from January through December. Events include STEM career panels, industry field trips, mentoring activities, and special coding events such as hackathons, tech days, etc. Additionally, the girls will have access to our BGC summer camp (in-person or virtual). Summer camp focuses on web development, robotics, mobile app development and other technical topics per our curriculum design. Our workshops and enrichments are hands-on and project-based which allows the girls to learn in a focused and engaged environment.