[Oct. 2016 Features] Girls who code–Programming club encourages Staples girls to learn code

By Izzy Connors ’18


Rather than spending her entire summer relaxing at the beach, staples student Giselle Briand ’17 attended the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program at Goldman Sachs in New York City, an initiative that introduces young girls into the world of programming. Women hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs, according to the US Department of Commerce. In an attempt to increase female representation in STEM jobs, national and state governments have established programs in and out of schools aimed at attracting young women to the field, like Girls Who Code.

“It was an amazing experience and I learned more things about coding that I didn’t know before and was able to implement my new skillsets in projects and new ventures,” Briand said about Girls Who Code. During the program, Briand worked collaboratively with two other girls to design an online shopping efficiency website. Their work was impressive enough for Twitter to take notice, and Briand and her team were “flown out to San Francisco [to] pitch our project to them.”

After such a positive experience, Briand knew she wanted to bring her passion for programming and sense of female empowerment home with her and spread it throughout the Staples community. Briand enlisted the help of her friend, Sarah Barnett ’17, and formed Staples High School’s own chapter of the nation-wide Girls Who Code organization. According to Briand, the mission of Girls Who Code is to “continue spreading knowledge and aspiration about coding and all the cool things that can come from knowing how to code.” In meetings, which are held every Tuesday, Briand and Barnett mimic the curriculum of the summer program. “Every lesson is a new concept in programming and ultimately, by the end of the curriculum, the girls will build a project/program themselves based on everything they learned in the club,” Briand said.

The club also works to “build teamwork and leaderships skills” as well as provide the opportunity to “join the sisterhood of supportive peers and role models,” Barnett said. The 12 girls who have joined the new club are surrounded by other girls who have a passion for coding and a goal to diversify the STEM field. Barnett believes this is possible by, “Teaching girls to use computer science to impact their community.”

Emily Ritter ’17, an active participant in the club, decided to join “because as our generation is increasingly making huge advancements in science and technology, [she] felt that having some basic knowledge of coding could be very helpful.” Although it’s unlikely that every member will embark on a career in programming, Ritter says it’s, “Important to support the idea of women being treated equally to men in science/technology careers.” And according to the founders of the Staples chapter, Girls Who Code provides this opportunity and fosters a love for programming.

This concept extends beyond the Staples community. The national organization has over 40,000 participants who attend summer programs and clubs at their respective schools. “Sixty-five percent of participants say they are considering a major or minor in computer science because of Girls Who Code,” according to official data from the Girls Who Code organization.

Briand, Barnett, and the 12 Staples girls are part of a much bigger movement; a movement that Barnett believes will ultimately “close the gender gap in technology.”