Women are outnumbered in tech careers, and the problem is only getting worse. In 2001, 27% of computer science graduates were women. That’s way down from 27% in 2001 and 37% in 1984.
Hoping to help turn things around, Ford’s philanthropic wing, the Ford Motor Company Fund, recently announced it partnering with the group Girls Who Code to encourage young women to consider tech careers and help them flourish in STEM studies.
The partnership includes mentorship, instruction and hands-on learning opportunities at Ford Research and Innovation Center Palo Alto for up to 180 Bay Area girls in grades 6 to 12.
“The use of technology is growing exponentially among young people, yet it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract them to technology-related educational programs,” Marcy Klevorn, Ford chief information officer, said in a press release about the partnership. “Ford is working with Girls Who Code to educate them on the many exciting career opportunities available in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. This kind of outreach grows more important each year.”
Ford’s national STEM efforts include working with colleges and high schools, founding academies for high school students, a high school science and technology program, sponsorship of FIRST Robotics teams and scholarship funding.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in tech fields will grow to more than 9 million by 2022—an increase of about 1 million jobs since 2012.
Yet currently, less than half a percent of high school girls heading for college select computer science as a college major.
Girls Who Code clubs provide 40 hours of instruction in computer science, including projects that reinforce concepts like conditionals, lists and loops, as well as skills like mobile app development. They also host speakers and field trips and offer a 7 week computer science course that embeds classrooms in technology companies and universities. Seventy-seven percent of girls in the immersion program changed career paths because of their experience, according to the non-profit organization’s website.