Viacommunity at 20: Changing the World One Girl at a Time

As part of the Viacommunity Impact Week kicking off the yearlong 20th anniversary celebration of Viacommunity, Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, presented “Closing the Gender Gap in Technology,” a talk with Viacom employees at the company’s global headquarters in Times Square. Viacom’s Chief Technology Officer David Kline introduced Saujani for the panel, which highlighted reasons that getting more girls into tech jobs is so important to society.

Girls Who Code, which is focused on inspiring and equipping girls with the computing and tech skills necessary to pursue a career in the 21st century, has conducted some eye-opening research: in 1984, 37 percent of all computer science graduates were women. Today, in a world consumed by technology, one might assume that number would have risen. Instead, the number has plummeted to less than 18 percent.

“At a time where we are becoming more technologically advanced, at a time where women are literally owning the Internet, the majority of those in college, the majority of those in the labor force, women in tech are being pushed out,” said Saujani.

Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani speaks to employees at Viacom's global headquarters in Times Square.

Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani speaks to employees at Viacom’s global headquarters in Times Square.

She offered Viacom employees suggestions on how they can help to shift this culture, including staying educated on policy and candidates running for office, referring girls to a local Girls Who Code club or summer immersion program, and encouraging the girls in their lives to follow their passions.

Since its beginning in 2012, Girls Who Code has served more than 10,000 girls in 24 states and has seen 300 percent year-over-year growth. The foundation is deeply committed to changing the statistics and educating more girls to become powerful career women in STEM-related jobs. The organization offers clubs to eligible schools and special summer programs.

Viacom partnered with Girls Who Code last summer to host a special summer immersion program in New York City. The intensive seven-week session provided several girls from the New York City area training in computer-science skills, like coding with HTML or JavaScript. In addition, the program offered the attendees workshops, panels and networking opportunities at Viacom. The program culminated with an impressive slate of final projects exploring the practical applications of their newly learned skills.

Saujani wrapped the event by ensuring that change can happen if everyone works together. “We can shift culture,” she said. “We can show a generation of girls that technology is cool, that it’s fun, that it’s interesting, and they can change what they see as their future, and we can do that together.”

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