By Sammy Lowdermilk

Women are woefully underrepresented in the computer science industry. Less than 10 percent of venture-backed tech startup companies are led by women and women earn just 18 percent of undergraduate degrees in computer science, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The Biz Foundry’s Tennessee Code Academy is attacking this gender disparity in technology with their 100 Girls of Code program, which went on the road this past July with nine free, one-day workshops across Tennessee – from Memphis to Knoxville, and many points in between – for females age 12 to 18. Sponsored by Tennessee Technological University, Waypaver, Force X and Launch Tennessee, the workshops introduced young women to the basics of computer programming, the latest website development techniques and innovative gaming development strategies – and instructors were all female programmers. This fall, the program is expanding to other cities across the Southeast.

The results of the first 100 Girls of Code summer tour are strong. The goal was to have 100 attendees – and 150 smart young women participated. The response from the girls after the workshop points to even better results, with 90 percent of the attendees saying they would consider a career or college degree in computer science.

Even better new is that 100 Girls of Code is one of several programs focused on increasing the number of women in the technology industry. Education World recently highlighted four others:

1)     Girl Develop It provides affordable, accessible programs for young women across the country, with both traditional and online classes.

2)     In California, Girls Teaching Girls to Code offers computer science and engineering workshops taught by female Stanford University students.

3)     Girls Who Code hosts a summer immersion program that teaches seven weeks of computer science material.

4)     Made With Code is an online program with projects users can complete on their own and tutorials related to computer science.

There are also apps that young women can use to start learning coding. Kodable, Hopscotch and Scratch are great ways to get girls interested in computer science at a young age. Play-I robots also look like they will be a great introduction into coding and robots.

The coding education programs geared toward young women are very exciting for the industry. These initiatives are necessary if we want to decrease the gender gap in computer science. 

Sammy Lowdermilk is program director for Tennessee Code Academy, a program of Launch Tennessee business accelerator The Biz Foundry, located in Cookeville, Tennessee.