The acronym has taken over education: STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — is the focus for educators and parents alike as they prepare their kids for the jobs of the future. So, how can historically underrepresented Black women make a mark in those lucrative fields? A new series of pathways is opening up to get women of color on a career accelerator, and we teamed up OZY to share these practical tips and tales of success. Just as OZY breaks the media mold in bringing readers diverse and surprising perspectives, Ally was built to serve customers digitally as a relentless financial ally. Read on for more about how you can make the most of the moment.
The demand is there.
Kimberly Bryant was inspired to launch the nonprofit Black Girls CODE after watching her own daughter’s interest in computer programming evolve throughout middle school. The problem? “I did not see those workshops and events that she was being introduced to being very diverse,” she says. So, in 2011, when she attracted a small group of kids to computer programming workshops in San Francisco, Bryant knew she was onto something vital. Almost a decade on, Black Girls CODE has more than 20 chapters in the U.S. and overseas that are supported by around 100 volunteers. More than 30,000 children have been exposed to coding and computer science thanks to their work. It’s never too early.
Working with kids ages 7 to 17, Black Girls CODE starts out by introducing participants to basic coding. The older kids, Bryant says, watch movies with strong female Black roles, such as Hidden Figures, followed by hackathons. The biggest uptake has been in the 12-to-13-year-old age group. Engaging children is also critical to Dr. Candice Hatcher-Solis of the Air Force Research Laboratory 711th Human Performance Wing. “Just to get people excited in science. I can’t say enough how important it is for young people to start internships,” she says.
Path to Success
In her Dayton, Ohio-based lab, Hatcher-Solis has two research associates who are women of color, and over the past three summers she’s mentored three women of color, one of whom was in high school at the time. For its part, Black Girls CODE last year established an alumni program with the goal of opening college-based chapters over the next few years. And in Detroit, Ally collaborates with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund for an annual competition called Moguls in the Making, to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
It’s never too late.
For Ally Invest President Lule Demmissie, courses and online education are critical not just at the start of a career but at every step along the way. “Just a year ago, I finished a weeklong course on design thinking and it’s changed the way I manage business,” she says. “About two years ago, I did an executive program at Stanford on the future of technology. I did my business degree a few years before that. You have to be an eternal learner.” And Demmissie herself pays it forward by educating budding investors at Ally Invest Digital Conferences.
The Benefits of Going Remote
COVID-induced online education, while far from ideal, can be a positive: Internships are moving to remote work, meaning students are not limited to a geographic place — saving less well-off students from having to move to an expensive city. Still, there are going to be hurdles in the way. “I want students to know you probably will face obstacles along the way,” Hatcher-Solis says. “You’re not going to be the only one.”