13 percent. That’s how many female teenagers consider a STEM field as their first choice for their future career.
Luckily, many people and organizations – including the White House – are working to figure out how to get more young women excited about science, math and technology. It’s also a topic that is catching the attention of more unexpected advocates, like model Karlie Kloss.
Together with Flatiron School, Kloss created the Kode With Klossy summer program to expose more girls to coding and tech careers. Kloss’s inspiration came from her own experience of learning to code at Flatiron School, where she realized how empowering it felt to build something from scratch – something that appealed to her inner problem-solver.
While the summer program certainly helps high school girls build real tech skills, it also benefits them in other ways, too.
In the words of Avi Flombaum, Dean of Flatiron School: teaming up with Kloss for the summer program is about offering “a place to be curious, to feel inspired, to be engaged.”
Four ways Kode With Klossy is helping to change the face of programming for young women:
1. Defying stereotypes
Karlie Kloss, a 6’1 model and global fashion icon, is so much more than a pretty face. In fact, she’s an entrepreneur, a student at NYU, and an avid coder who isn’t scared of taking on a good challenge.
Girls need more role models like Karlie – to see that they don’t have to be defined by just one thing.
Former Kode With Klossy scholarship winner, Thea Mckenna, hit the nail on the head and shared the reality for many of her peers.
“Girls aren’t always encouraged to pursue careers in the STEM field, even if it is their passion. I think people, no matter what gender, should be able to follow their passion to the career of their choosing. By learning to code at a young age, girls can overcome the stereotypes and discouragement thrown at them from the beginning.”
Fellow student Isabella added: “Kode With Karlie and the Flatiron School really opened up my eyes to careers in technology. I didn’t realize that women were needed in the technology industry, and I also didn’t know how not nerdy and cool a career in tech can be. After my time at the Flatiron School, I started to really consider a career in tech and software engineering.”
Regardless of the path these students take after the summer program, in college and beyond, they’ve at least been given the opportunity to explore coding and know that the tech industry is a place where they are welcome.
2. Building rock-solid confidence
Research says girls tend to be less confident than boys because females get praised for being good at things, which discourages them from pursuing activities that might be challenging at first. According to “The Confidence Gap,” avoiding the risk of not being immediately good at something is part of a problem that follows girls into adulthood.
Luckily, Kode With Klossy and Flatiron School makes a tough subject, such as learning to code, exciting and fun—something worth investing time and effort in. Immersing young girls into tech isn’t just about priming a talented group of future female coders, it’s also about changing what they thought they were capable of in this space, says Kloss.
Judging by what former students say about the program, Kloss is exactly right.
“The platitude goes ‘ask and you shall receive’ but coding makes me feel like I can grab the world by the lapels and demand what I want of it.” – Michelle, 2015 scholarship winner
3. Sparking creativity
One of the most important aspects of the Kode With Klossy program is its commitment to showing students the creative aspects of coding. Former students have built everything from apps that help you decide what to wear based on weather data to interactive quizzes and mobile games.
Scholarship winner Leilani agrees, having found the creative connection herself.
“Coding connects the things I love—DJing/Beats & Forensic Science. I want to learn code to make people dance and bring solace from a crime.”
4. Connecting girls to a purpose
When you’re in middle or high school, it’s easy to think of your purpose solely in terms of going to class and getting into college. But if students are encouraged and equipped to look beyond diplomas, the time spent earning those pieces of paper will be much more productive—and enjoyable!
When sparking a young person’s interest in science or technology, it’s important to show how it connects to what they already love doing. For instance, a young woman may know she wants a career that lets her help people or contribute to society in a meaningful way. But she may not realize that learning to code can help her achieve that. The Kode With Klossy summer program helps girls learn about the range of potential careers in tech and, more importantly, how programming may connect to their interests.
“Coding creates more opportunities to use my knowledge in healthcare and biomedical engineering to reach out and help others in the future.” – Ayushi, 2015 scholarship winner
“I want to be able to develop an application for teenagers with spinal cord injuries that will encourage independence and confidence despite their disabilities.” – Brianna, 2015 scholarship winner
Ensuring more women pursue technology careers and creating diverse teams has certainly become a priority for leaders and forward-thinking organizations. Programs like Kode With Klossy, which target women before they settle on a college major or career path, is helping to make this a reality. It helps young women not only build their confidence and creativity, but also realize that coding and other STEM fields are open to them.
KwK scholar Cindy sums it up best when she say:
“It’s important for women to learn coding because they can provide a diverse perspective in the evolution of technology. Coding is going to become a larger part of society and this skill cannot be limited to only half the population. More women need to be represented within the coding field now so they can inspire and become role models for more girls further into the future to get into coding”
How to apply
If you know a superstar programmer in the making, share the Kode With Klossy website for details. The application is simple: just upload a 60-second video to YouTube with the hashtag #KodeWithKlossy telling us how you plan to use coding to change the world.