Tech Startup of the Week: Black Girls Code Puts the T Back in STEM

Founder Kimberly Bryant has helped more than 800 girls (and a few boys) develop a marketable skill

Kimberly Bryant’s daughter, Kai, 12, loved playing video games, so Bryant enrolled her in a computer programming camp at Stanford.

“I was trying to encourage her to create something of her own if she was going to spend so much time on the web.”

At Stanford, Kai flourished. She stayed on campus for a week learning about video game development and programming, but Bryant, an electrical engineer who worked in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry, was still frustrated because she realized that of the 35 students in the program, no more than four were girls and, gender aside, Kai was the only student of color.

Bryant knew that the pipeline to tech careers was faulty when it came to blacks and she wanted to do something to help fill it with more girls. So, in April 2011, she founded Black Girls Code to help give more black girls around the country the same opportunity that Kai got at Stanford.

Black Girls Code is this week’s Tech Startup of the Week. Last year, while still working full time in the biotech industry, Bryant corralled 400 volunteers to help host workshops to 800 girls in nine U.S. cities. (Not to mention, her own daughter, now 14, is a teacher’s assistant for BGC and she’s been a member of her school’s robotics team for two years.) Her goal is to reach 2,000 students in 2013.

Most girls that come to BGC classes have not done programming before, says Bryant but when they leave one of her one-day workshops, weekend seminars, or six-week summer programs, they leave understanding and replicating various aspects of Web-based technology including mobile apps, design graphics, digital filmmaking, and robotics. Last fall they taught a six-week program on Python, a more complex programing language used for mobile app development.

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