After-school club encourages girls to pursue STEM

Girls Who Code is an organization that provides free coding curriculum to school clubs with a few core goals: coding, teamwork, and sisterhood. Girls Who Code exists to inspire students to see themselves as computer scientists—not just girls, but especially girls—who historically have been afforded less exposure to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) learning and fewer opportunities in technical and engineering fields.

Only 18% of working women hold occupations in STEM as opposed to 29% of men, according to the National Science Foundation. Girls Who Code aims to close the gender gap in STEM careers. Hamilton Middle School held its first official Girls Who Code club meeting in October with an encouraging turnout of aspiring computer scientists.

“Computer science is such a male-dominated field,” said club sponsor and Hamilton science teacher Tricia Aguas. “Girls this age don’t realize that they have the potential to be computer scientists, to be scientists in general, be good at math. I feel like something fun like this, coding, for example, is extremely important to cultivate so that they know that they are part of STEAM and they can be leaders in the field of computer science.”

Girls Who Code club members will complete coding projects and work with the organization’s curriculum, which is comprised of a collection of coding activities of varying difficulties designed to keep learners engaged and challenged no matter their level of experience.

Media Services Specialist Terrence Eveline started the Girls Who Code club at Hamilton last year because he always wished there had been a program or club like it when he was in school.

“I’m a huge proponent of technology integration and the power of technology use, and I know that there is a lack of diversity in the field,” Eveline said. “Why wouldn’t we want more women [in technology] when they represent half of the population? I think it’s a great opportunity to expose them to that world.”

Careers in STEM are on the rise with computer technology jobs projected to grow by 15% by the year 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Learning to code in middle school can help set students up for the world and workplace of year 2035 with a jumpstart on a lucrative and high-demand profession, such as mobile app development, information security, programming, and system engineering.

“I joined Girls Who Code because girls don’t really get as many opportunities in the technology field as boys do,” said eighth-grader Amaya Cobb, who has ambitions to design and code her own VR video game. Cobb and her clubmates are looking forward to a year of fun learning opportunities, and while the club is new, Evaline hopes they will be able to compete in coding competitions with other HISD campuses.

To learn more about Girls Who Code, visit their website. To stay updated on happenings at Hamilton Middle School, follow them on Twitter.