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Girls Who Code joins forces with Twitter, Google, eBay

A new initiative aims to get more women working in the tech industry -- and it's starting with teaching high school girls computer science.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
Girls Who Code's Web site. Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

It's no secret that there's a lack of women in the tech industry. But the former deputy public advocate of New York City, Reshma Saujani, wants to do something about it.

Saujani launched a new initiative called Girls Who Code this month backed by tech heavyweights Twitter, eBay, Google, and General Electric. The program aims to encourage high school girls to study computer science and engineering.

"Together with leading educators, engineers, and entrepreneurs, Girls Who Code has developed a new model for computer science education, pairing intensive instruction in robotics, web design, and mobile development with high-touch mentorship led by the industry's top female developers and entrepreneurs," the Girls Who Code Web site reads.

According to Saujani, only 3.6 percent of Fortune 500 companies are women-led and less than 10 percent of venture capital-backed companies have female founders. But, women use the Internet 17 percent more than men.

Tech is one of the fastest growing job sectors, which leaves ample opportunity for women to get involved. The Girls Who Code Web site says, "By 2018, there will be 1.4 million computer science-related job openings, yet U.S. universities are expected to produce enough computer science graduates to fill just 29 percent of these jobs."

Girls Who Code's first session begins this summer. It's an eight-week course in New York where 20 female high school students will work with a tech mentor while also attending classes on coding, design, and entrepreneurship. The mentorship will continue after the summer courses have ended.

During a CNET panel in January, a group of top female tech executives said that women will advance in the industry as more role models emerge throughout tech companies. "We need to have successful role models at every level," Cisco Systems Chief Technology Officer Padmasree Warrior said.

Twitter engineer Sara Haider seems to agree. She wrote a blog post today about the social network's collaboration with Girls Who Code.

"If we want there to be more women who pursue careers in engineering and computer science and feel welcome in these fields, we have to work on ways to increase the number of women studying engineering -- it's that simple," she wrote. "Of course we have self-interest in this too: having more female engineers on staff leads to having an even better working environment at Twitter."

Numbers seem to back Haider's statement, according to Girls Who Code tech companies with more women on their management teams have a 34 percent higher return on investment.