At center, Daniela Leguisamo works with other students during a coding class at The Young Women's Leadership School of Astoria on September 17, 2015, in Astoria, New York. The all-girls STEM-focused public school was established in 2006.Ann Hermes / Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images
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In 2012, one woman had the idea to create a program that would get girls active and more interested in computer sciences. It started with 20 girls in a conference room in New York City learning to code. Today, more than 1500 girls will be taught this summer alone, all thanks to Girls Who Code.
The national non-profit started with one mission — to close the gender gap and get more girls involved in computer science and technology field. Through after-school clubs and summer immersion programs, specifically targeting young women from the sixth to the 12th grade, the organization hopes to drastically increase the number of women in the field.
Working alongside tech giants like AT&T and AOL Charitable Foundation, Girls Who Code just launched a summer immersion program in 11 cities, targeting girls in grades 11 and 12. The newest program is in Washington, D.C.
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“Girls Who Code is about bringing about change,” said CEO and founder Reshma Saujani. “What better way to do that than being in our nation’s capital where everyday adults are struggling with solving our country's most pressing problems."
Jourdann Fraser is a graduate of the Girls Who Code summer immersion program in New York City. She had been intrigued with computers from a young age, joining the computer club in elementary school and then the robotics club in middle school. But it was when a Girls Who Code club started at her high school that coding became a serious interest. Fraser told NBC News it’s all about teamwork.
“When you code, there isn't one way of solving a problem, and it's very collaborative, so you can have one way of solving something that is completely different from another person,” said Fraser. “You can learn from other people's ways of thinking, and I really like that aspect of coding.”
The summer immersion program lasts seven weeks. Each week, students are taught a new subject. The participants learn everything from how to design and build websites and apps to robotics to art and storytelling.
And, it’s no secret that men dominate the computer science industry. Just 4 percent of all computer science students in college are women, according to the Girls Who Code website.
“By the end of this year we'll have taught a total 40,000 girls in all 50 states,” Saujani said. “I'm obsessed with building this movement and won't stop until we reach gender parity.”
By 2020, women are expected to make up just 3 percent of the more than one million jobs likely to be available in the computer science industry.
“To empower a generation of young women here in D.C. to go tackle those challenges is just an incredible opportunity,” said Saujani.
Haweya Fadal is currently interning for Weekend Nightly News at NBC’s Washington Bureau. She is pursuing her Master’s degree at American University and is studying journalism and public Affairs with a special focus on broadcast journalism. Fadal has previously interned with CTV News in Canada.