The gender gap in the computer science industry continues to be an issue. But a national organization equipping young women with coding skills is hoping to change that by increasing its presence in the Tampa Bay area.
The St. Petersburg Library System is launching the newest Girls Who Code club starting Feb. 6.
Girls in grades 6-12 can participate in the program, which will meet Wednesdays at the James Weldon Johnson Community Library.
The group's work has reached almost 90,000 girls in all 50 states, and though Girls Who Code has a strong national presence, it has only recently made its impact in St. Petersburg.
Johnson Community Library hosted similar teaching programs in the past but had never worked with this group.
“This was actually a partnership that we sought out,” said library director Mika Nelson. “Based on our mission, this was something that we wanted to see happen.”
The national Girls Who Code organization was established six years ago, with the aim of reaching gender parity in the computer science field by 2027. Today, it has six clubs in St. Petersburg area, a dozen in the Tampa Bay area and more than 100 in Florida.
The Johnson Library program is unique in that it's not based within a school. It’s the impact that these clubs have on the lives of young women that Nelson is excited about.
“Our middle and high schoolers can start to have these opportunities to hone in on skills, be exposed to career fields and be able to engage with one another,” said Nelson.
The Girls Who Code mission also fits with the St. Petersburg Library System’s initiative to promote and empower its diverse community, she said.
“The premise behind the program is to increase the number of young ladies who major in (a technological) career field...and who go on to actually join the workforce,” said Nelson.
The program will take place from 4:30-6 p.m. every Wednesday Feb. 6 to April 17. Registration, which is free, is open by phone at (727) 893-7113. It will remain open after the program starts.