Girls are less likely than boys to be told by parents and teachers that they would be good at computer science. Girls are also less likely to participate in extracurricular tech programs and less aware of how to learn computer science via the internet. Yet, tech sector jobs are among the highest-paying occupations for women. Just as important, technology provides a powerful medium for girls and women to create meaningful solutions to global problems and to tell stories that shape how we view the world.
Here are five summer programs to help you encourage a girl to create, design, play and change the world through tech.
The all-girl programs listed here are thoughtfully designed to spark a girl’s interest in tech. All-girl camps aren’t about thinking pink. Rather, they make coding fun by focusing on projects that matter to girls. They also work hard to create safe environments where girls are supported to take risks, try new ways of thinking, and to pick themselves up and move on from initial failures.
If you can’t find an all-girl program near you, look for a course that gives students a choice of coding projects so that they can pick one that fits with their interests. Like YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki’s young daughter, who thought that it was “ ‘super lame’ to like computers,” my daughter had a negative perception of coding after first trying it in a co-ed class. Then she tried one of Google’s Made with Code projects that incorporated her interest in fashion. Now she’s hooked and onto building a website!
Gaming is a big industry with high projected job growth and very few female game designers. This three-week camp introduces girls to game design, art, and programming through hands-on activities, discussions with games industry professionals, and field trips hosted at local game companies. They have a very low 4:1 student to counselor ratio and provide long-term mentorship to girls, including college and internship applications and contest guidance.
Age range: 11-14 but they’ll consider hosting younger and older girls
2. Alexa Cafe
Alexa Cafe combines tech, entrepreneurship and social activism to empower the next generation of women in tech. Endorsed by the Society of Women Engineers, Alexa Cafe offers several types of weeklong day and overnight camps that teach girls about coding, design, filmmaking, leadership, and entrepreneurship to make the world a better place.
Age range: 10-15 for all-girl summer camps, 7-17 for related co-ed courses
“Imagine.Build.Create” is the motto of this organization that aims to teach 1 million girls of color to code by 2040 with the ultimate goals of succeeding in tech and creating social impact through their work. Their two-week summer camps provide girls of color with hands-on, project-based instruction and mentorship in web design, game design, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, by women who they can look up to as role models. Operating year-round programs in 13 US cities, BGC will host summer camps in NY, CA, and TX.
Age range: Summer courses for ages 11 to 14; other courses, ages 7-17
At this one-week day camp, girls design and build apps while also learning about important business aspects of software development. At the end of the camp, girls pitch their apps to a panel of women business leaders while parents and friends cheer them on.
Age range: Entering grades 8 or 9 in the fall.
Girls Who Code‘s free, intensive, seven week program offers girls 300+ hours of deep instruction in web development and design, robotics, and mobile apps, with mentorship from female engineers and entrepreneurs. Girls get exposure to tech jobs and become part of a resource-rich national alumni network sponsored by leading tech companies that have pledged to share internships.
Age range: Summer courses for girls entering 10th and 11th grade take place in 11 cities. After-school programs are available for 6-12th grade girls.
Don’t see a camp that works for you? Check out these two extra resources:
If you’re curious about what it would be like to help a girl learn about tech at home or in an afterschool workshop, then Techshopz in a Box by TechGirlz is for you. These fantastic, free workshop guides and curricula are rated by difficulty for the instructor, from basic to advanced. With topics ranging from making a website to smart textiles to entrepreneur summer camp, there is likely to be a workshop that meets your girl’s interests.
Finally, look into coding classes at your local library. Google is partnering with the American Library Association to bring Libraries Ready to Code to a library near you.
Kara Sammet, PhD, is a strategy, communications and program design consultant for companies and foundations that want to improve the inclusion, retention and leadership of women of all colors in tech. She previously worked with Google on projects to diversify computer science for women and underrepresented minorities. Reach her at [email protected] and @karasammet.