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"Girls Who Code" Aims To Help Close Gender Gap In Computer Science

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As the city continues to focus on its expanding technology sector, there is a new focus on who is being left out, and a new organization is making an effort to change that. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

High above Rockefeller Center, teenage girls spent the summer building and problem solving, building computer code and solving technical glitches. But they say they're also building momentum to solve a major gender gap problem.

With less than half of 1 percent of high school girls expressing interest in computer science, there's starting to be a concerted effort to get young women to consider tech careers.

Girls Who Code is perhaps the best-known organization in the budding campaign. The two-month program began last summer and has now expanded to include 80 girls in the city, with another 80 in California and Detroit.

Companies like Twitter, eBay, Intel and GE provide space, technology and speakers. Girls Who Code recruits the participants, provides the curriculum and hires the teachers.

In the city, girls spent the summer at Cornell Tech, IAC, Goldman Sachs and at AT&T.

"We can't keep up with the demand for our technology jobs, and we're certainly not filling them with enough women right now," said Marissa Shorenstein of AT&T.

Students said they'd never even noticed the gender gap.

"The only people that are involved in computers and technology and stuff are only men," said student Luisa Goytia. "I didn't know why, and I never questioned it."

It's an issue within the city's public schools. At the Academy for Software Engineering, a new high school that accepts students based on interest alone, boys made up 76 percent of the first class.

The founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani, is running for public advocate. The teachers' union is involved with a spin-off organization, called Teachers Who Code.

The program is free for the girls, who say figuring out how to create something, and make it work, can be extremely satisfying. Almost all of them say their college plans have changed.

"I'm thinking of double majoring in acting and computer science," Goytia said.

"I want to be a biomedical engineer," said another student.

It's one of many rapidly expanding fields attracting many more men than women, for now.

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