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Black Girls Code invites young women into the tech world

Tamerra Griffin | 1/2/2014, 12:56 p.m.

Another 7-year-old in attendance that day was Jayda Ostrum, who traveled to the event from Philadelphia. Like Landeau, Ostrum has taken computer programming classes before; she once took part in a robot-building competition but said she prefers coding.

“I don’t like rushing,” she said, adding that the robot competition had a deadline, whereas constructing codes allows her to save a project and return to it later. “I just love the whole program.”

The girls were not the only ones at work; while they were creating mobile apps, their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents circled around in a neighboring room to take part in a panel discussion on how they can continue to empower young minority women to excel in STEM fields.

Victorio Milian, who works in human resources and whose 12-year-old daughter Kalindra took part in the mobile app class, expressed his concern about how to best prepare his daughter for what he called “the institution of racism and sexism” in science-based industries, adding that most companies contain a “single-digit representation of women, less for women of color.”

Other parents echoed Milian’s thoughts and networked with each other after the panel to establish a support group.

Allyson Gill was one of the panelists to address parents’ questions. The 20-year-old admitted that she was not aware of the gendered and racial chasms in computer science as she grew up. Gill, who now studies communications technology at York College, attended Brooklyn Technical High School, where math and engineering were heavily integrated into the curriculum.

“When I left high school, I met other people who went to New York City public schools, and I realized that they weren’t exposed to it. Ever since then, I’ve been a big advocate for exposing kids to all of the opportunities in the STEM fields that don’t always have to be encryption or developing software for a business. It can be something creative and fun.”