Girls Who Code launches in India; Founder Reshma Saujani says aim is to provide access to skills and tools to change the world

Girls Who Code has partnered with United Technologies to launch a programme for girls in India to engage in fun online coding tutorials, build a community through interactive activities, and work together to design solutions to real-world problems.

7th Nov 2019
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On Wednesday, United Technologies Corp (UTC) announced the expansion of its strategic partnership with US-based non-profit organisation Girls Who Code (GWC).

GWC is building one of the largest pipelines of future female engineers and technologists in the US with UTC’s support, and is now expanding to India. The global initiative, supported by Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney, is part of UTC’s comprehensive effort to inspire, train, increase, and sustain the number of women and underrepresented populations in the technology sector.

Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani, the Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code.

UTC’s support includes financial backing, professional mentoring, and hosting select GWC programmes at company facilities. As part of the launch event in India on Wednesday, UTC and GWC recognised the first-ever 30 girls graduating from GWC Clubs in India.

GWC plans to leverage Collins Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney's in-country resources to expand pilot clubs in Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Mumbai.

The programme provides an environment for girls to engage in fun online coding tutorials, build community through interactive activities, learn about inspiring role models in tech, and work together to design solutions to real-world problems. To date, GWC has set up 100 Girls Who Code Clubs in India.

In an interview with HerStory, Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, and Alka Siddiqui, India Digital Head, United Technologies Collins Aerospace, talk about their foray into India, and the partnership’s vision for millions of girls in the country.

Edited excerpts from the interviews:

Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO of Girls Who Code

HerStory: What made you think of India for GWC?

Reshma Saujani: We are so lucky to have grown so quickly in the US, and wanted to expand internationally to reach even more girls with our programming. Last year, we were able to expand our programming into India, Canada, and the UK. We knew there was a demand for our programmes in these countries and that’s proven to be true - we already have 100 clubs in India. 

HS: What is your vision for Girls Who Code India?

RS: Our vision is to reach every girl in India and across the world, to give millions of girls access to the skills and tools they need to change the world. Thanks to the support of amazing partners like United Technologies, that vision is within reach.

HS: How will you be introducing GWC in schools?

RS: In India, we’ve launched free after-school clubs programme for girls between the ages of 11 and 18. These clubs are led by facilitators, who can be teachers, parents, librarians, or anyone who would like to volunteer. Girls can sign up and are led through curricula that gives them the foundation they need to explore computer science, and teaches them about important women in tech. 

HS: How will GWC equip girls to take up careers in STEM?

RS: We want to bring more girls into tech, especially those who might not otherwise have access to computer science education. Our Clubs programme aims to do just that by teaching girls the basics of programming, and also about women in tech. In addition, we’re committed to giving them a sisterhood of women they can turn to for support. We know that having a community like the one GWC provides can be just as important as any coding language! 

HS: Why do we need a programme like this in India?

RS: We need girls to have experience in technology and coding because these tools are what our girls will use to change the world. But too often, girls grow up feeling they don’t belong in computer science because they don’t fit the stereotype of a coder. We have to show them they belong in tech, that women who look like them actually pioneered the field. 

HS: Also, is it some way going to be adapted into school curricula?

RS: We would love to see schools incorporating computer science education into their curricula, especially if they are including lesson plans about women in tech.

HS: What are your future plans for India?

RS: We’re hoping to expand to even more communities and serve even more girls. We’ve already established 100 clubs in India in just one year - there’s a need here and girls are excited about the programme. We can’t wait to see how these clubs will grow and expand throughout the country. 

Alka Siddiqui, India Digital Head, United Technologies Collins Aerospace

Girls Who Code India

Alka Siddiqui, Digital Leader, Collins Aerospace; Vince Campisi, Chief Digital Officer, United Technologies; and Mr. Gopalkrishna, office of The Director of Public Instruction; along with India’s first cohort of Girls Who Code Club graduates.

HerStory: Tell us about your vision for Girls Who Code.

Alka Siddiqui: My vision aligns closely with the GWC’s charter. I would like to build capabilities for our future generation girls by associating them with sisterhood communities, and offer them opportunities to provide them computer science skills and confidence. This would create a pipeline of women talent globally. Our vision is to open 200+ GWC clubs in every possible city across India.

HS: What has been your experience with the first batch of Girls Who Code?

AS: I was truly humbled and amazed to see the first batch of GWC graduating at Government Primary School, Hoodi, Bengaluru. It was great to see the energy of young girls to learn programming at such an early age. While interacting, they seemed to be very confident and eager to learn more. The girls are blessed to have such a forum with sisterhood community to develop their talent and be brave. I wish there was something like this couple of decades ago.

HS: How do you see this for Indian girls taking up STEM in the future?

AS: Indian girls are well poised to take up STEM as their choice of career as compared to other parts of the world. My vision would be to enforce and try to build self-sustained communities to help the cause of the GWC mission. I would like to see each girl from GWC building a community in her own town/village.

HS: Where do you go from here?

AS: I would encourage the girls graduating from GWC to be the brand ambassadors for GWC, and seek any help needed to strengthen this community even further. United Technologies Collins Aerospace partnership with GWC would provide sponsorship for these clubs, and the vision is to open 200+ clubs in India by the end of 2020.

(Edited by Megha Reddy)

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