Coding hours and other introductions to high-tech career options will begin Monday in Kansas City, tied to a week-long emphasis on attracting girls to computing jobs.
KC STEM Alliance, the Kansas City Women’s Foundation, the Skillbuilders Fund, Cerner Corp. and other businesses will sponsor six “Hour of Code” events for more than 400 elementary, middle and high school students selected from area districts.
The programs are designed to expose girls to computer science in an effort to remedy an employment imbalance in a profession dominated by men. Women represent only 27 percent of workers in professional computing occupations, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
“Girls and young women don’t choose tech as a career pathway as frequently as we want, period,” said Julie Wilson, chief people officer at Cerner, who said next week’s events could help change girls’ perceptions of tech careers.
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In 2013, 57 percent of all bachelor’s degree earners were women, but women earned only 18 percent of all computing and information science bachelor’s degrees, according to GirlsWhoCode.org.
New research compiled by Code.org found that only 14 percent of students who took the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam this year in Missouri were female, and in Kansas it was only 19 percent.
Laura Loyacono, executive director of KC STEM Alliance, said research indicates early exposure to job opportunities can help direct girls to science, technology, engineering and math careers as well as help employers diversify their workforces.
The initiative includes a social media campaign with the hashtag #GirlsinTechKC.
The girl-focused events for students will be at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, two Cerner campuses, Johnson County Community College, Google Fiber Space and Commerce Bank downtown.
Sponsors note that lack of interest in computing isn’t just a girl problem. Available computing jobs outpace qualified applicants by a factor of more than 3 to 1.
According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, projections indicate that by 2022 only 39 percent of computing jobs could be filled by U.S. graduates in the field.