Marlin Page, founder of Sisters Code, speaks with Joy Reid about efforts to close the gender gap in coding and emerging technologies.
Marlin Page, founder of Sisters Code, speaks with Joy Reid about efforts to close the gender gap in coding and emerging technologies.
DETROIT, March 11, 2015 –Ford STEAM Lab, an educational program from the Ford Motor Company Fund, is bringing the power of Silicon Valley to Detroit with an innovative two-day hackathon to help middle school students improve their education while exploring high-tech careers.
The 100 students from five Detroit-area middle schools will learn the basics of software coding as they create and “hack” an application that will help them learn better. Their projects will be judged by a high profile panel of judges as they compete for bragging rights and more than $30,000 in scholarships and awards.
“Student voice and authentic inclusion is important to students succeeding in education,” said Shawn Wilson, manager, Multicultural Community Engagement, Ford Motor Company Fund.
“Ford’s goal is to not only empower students to take control of their educational future, but also discover a potential career pathway in Michigan’s growing technology sector.”
Ford STEAM Lab is collaborating with:
“In the new century, technology is central to middle class jobs and income. We are proud to work with partners like Ford and the Level Playing Field Institute, to support 21st Century opportunities to students in Detroit,” said Van Jones, #YesWeCode founder.
The hackathon will be held March 27-28 at the Ford Resource and Engagement Center at 2826 Bagley St., Detroit, 48216.
MSNBC will broadcast live from the hackathon on Friday, March 27. More details on the program will be announced at a later date.
After learning coding skills on the first day, students will present their app ideas to a panel of judges on the second day. The panel will include Stephen Henderson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Editorial Page Editor of the Detroit Free Press and co-host of Detroit Today on WDET; and Van Jones, #YesWeCode founder, and environmental and civil rights advocate.
At the conclusion of the event, students will hear via Skype about two very different success stories. Detroit native and singer/songwriter Big Sean will speak to the importance of technology in music and how it changed the music industry.
Ford STEAM Lab was launched in October 2014 to spark high potential, low opportunity student passion for technology entrepreneurship and careers in traditional STEM fields, as well as automotive design and vehicle technology. STEAM Lab adds an arts component to help students learn how to use creativity and innovation in problem solving and collaboration.
Ford Motor Company Fund invests more than $8 million a year in scholarships and other education initiatives. In addition to the Ford STEAM Lab, Ford Fund educational programs include Ford Blue Oval Scholars, Ford Next Generation Learning, Ford College Community Challenge and Ford Driving Dreams Tour.
During my many conversations on bridging the gender and racial gap in technology, a re-occurring theme is, “Hey, I want to hire a diverse workforce, but we have a hard time finding people who fit into our corporate culture.
OK… I’m going to stop you right there and ask, “What you talking about Willis? (You would only get this if you watched the TV Show Different Strokes, and yes I think I’m pretty funny.) More times than not, my question is met with a blank face, a stumble in words, or a look of embarrassment. My solution: Don’t get uptight, don’t become defensive, I come in peace…Let’s talk about it.
Often time the corporate executives I consult with aren’t consciously excluding people, however the ” culture fit” statement and reaction to my question, suggest an unconscious bias. That statement is a covert way of saying,: “Uh, you don’t look or act like anyone who works here, or for that matter anyone in my circle. So, you may be qualified, but it’s not gonna work here.”
Openly and strategically discussing the “they don’t fit into the culture” statement, has actually lead to great conversations, challenging beliefs, uncovering fear, and hiring great people who help propel the organization to new heights with a wealth of diverse thoughts, talents, and creativity.
When you speak about fitting into the culture do you mean: The candidate is certain race or gender, they’re too old, have a percieved socio-economic status, don’t look”cool” enough, can’t speak the jargon, don’t like sports, will be the “only” at the company picnic, and the reasoning goes on.
I know the reasons listed may seem a little outlandish, but speaking from experience some of the conversations, I’ve had around corporate culture have been over the top. I worked at a corporation where my peer, an executive pointed and said, “We treat colored people equally.” Now, you can’t tell me that he did not have a wild definition of what a cultural fit would be and I’m grateful he didn’t have a decision on hiring me as I would still be embalming people (long story…)
I’m not implying that company culture and values aren’t important, but I’m asking you to pause and ask yourself are you using it as an “excuse” to exclude amazing candidates from the field of technology.
Bottom-line: I’m suggesting you call a meeting with yourself and then your staff to talk about “this culture fit”…what does it REALLY mean? Next time you say, “they don’t fit into the culture,” someone might call you on it. What will your answer be?
Marlin is a Globetrotting Speaker, Founder of Sisters Code, and thought leader on bridging the racial and gender gap in technology. Marlin serves as speaker for Microsoft’s global DigiGirlz Program and has been invited to present at SXSW, Techonomy, Meeting of the Minds, and more. Marlin also serves as a media contributor on various outlets. Marlin’s Book and Music Single empowers girls to love and believe in themselves.
20-years ago I literally stumbled into the field of of technology, and my life was transformed. After college I was an aspiring mortician at a local funeral home. My day consisted of learning to embalm, consoling grieving families, and even singing and praying at the funerals. Hey, I was every woman!
Unfortunately coding and technology are often presented in a very complex way, and it’s really not that deep. A career in technology is accessible, you don’t need a thousand degrees, you don’t have to live in a certain area and you don’t have to look a certain way. As I work on bridging the gender and racial gap in technology, I speak with many women who feel they don’t have access to tech jobs or they lack the confidence to try. I always say there is power in the first step, so below you will find five fun and easy tips (things you can do today) to move you closer to your technology goals:
1. Try an introductory class. No, not a class that costs thousands of dollars. Before you make that type of investment, I would encourage you to try it out first. After Sisters Code’s Weekend Website Warrior Classes, we have many women who experience coding “ah-ha” moments and go on to re-career into the field of technology or become tech entrepreneurs. There are also some women who realize they hate coding, and I also consider that a success as they can now truly find their true life purpose. Bottom-line: Find a cost effective local introductory class or try an online option like codeacademy.com.
2. Speak with other women who are in the field. When I started my career in technology, it was great to see other women who looked like me in the field. If you don’t know someone currently working in the tech field, don’t let that stop you. This is where you get creative. A few options: Find a local women technology group, Google or Bing a woman you admire in tech and simply reach out (what’s the worst thing that could happen?)
3. No apologies allowed. No, you don’t know how to code. No, you aren’t even sure what coding is. Trust me, when I started my career in technology the only thing I knew about coding was how to spell the word. If you are curious about entering the field of technology, don’t apologize to anyone for what you don’t know. This is the time where you walk in with your head up high, and ask for what you want. Focus on what you want to learn and take the necessary steps to get you there.
4. Show up. “Coding” is the new cool thing and the new buzz word, which means there are quite a few opportunities to pick up this new skill. However, I would be a millionaire if I had a dollar for every woman who has told me that there aren’t opportunities to learn and/or network. The table has been set on a national level, now it’s time for you to show up and take your seat at the table. Show up for classes, conferences, networking events and job fairs. As the “excuse annihilator,” I can’t think of any excuse for you to stay away.
5. Tap into your inner Swagger. My teenage daughter would cringe at my use of that word, but I like it. My definition of swagger is your confidence, the way you walk into the room, understanding that you deserve the best, etc. Before you can learn to code or accomplish any other goal for that matter, you must first believe you can. The underlying belief that you can do this, that you can accomplish this, that you can re-career into the field of technology is important. It’s the first step…..
Marlin is a Globetrotting Speaker, Founder of Sisters Code, and thought leader on bridging the racial and gender gap in technology. Marlin serves as speaker for Microsoft’s global DigiGirlz Program and has been invited to present at SXSW, Techonomy, Meeting of the Minds, and more. Marlin also serves as a media contributor on WDIV’s Live in the D. Marlin’s Book and Music Single empowers girls to love and believe in themselves.
DETROIT – Cass Tech high school and Wayne State University graduate and CEO of Sisters Code, Marlin Page talk’s “women in tech” during Techonomy Detroit 2014 with moderator Andrew Keen of TechCrunch.
“I travel often speaking with young girls about technology” and ”When we look at this digital divide” and “We’re missing a population of women” and “We aren’t taping into this workforce,” said Marlin Page of Sisters Code.
The panel of Brian Forde of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Google’s Chris Genteel, Laura Mather of Unitive, Marlin Page of Sisters Code, and Indiegogo’s Danae Ringelmann discussed way’s to make entrepreneurship more inclusive and the tech industry more of a melting pot in America during Techonomy Detroit 2014.
See Woodlawn Post for the complete article
Seeking to boost the number of women in front-end technology — building Web and mobile applications — Detroiter Marlin Page launched Sisters Code. The Detroit nonprofit aims to provide 2,020 females with employable digital skills by the end of 2020.
Already, 50 women have completed the first 13-week program, held at Microsoft Corp.’s regional offices in Southfield. After 500 women are trained in metro Detroit, Sisters Code will expand its curriculum nationwide. Beyond that, Page says the nonprofit has the potential to operate in perpetuity.
“We provide the students with an hourly salary, which takes away a lot of the barriers of getting to class each day,” she says. “It’s a radical idea — (paying) people to attend classes — but it’s needed. Plus, we provide one-on-one mentoring, and career and life coaching.”
Each class will have 16 students, and no coding experience is needed. To help raise capital for the effort, Page launched a crowdfunding effort earlier this year, and new classes are being planned.
In-kind donors include Microsoft, Henry Ford Health System, Chalkfly, and the Michigan Council of Women in Technology.
“My goal was to weave technology with empowerment,” says Page, a technology strategist for Microsoft. “I also advise parents on what their children are doing with social media. It’s not something you can leave to chance. You need to monitor everything your children are doing online. db
Sending a special thank you to the Michigan Council of Women in Technology for gifting two Sister Code participants with free memberships to their illustrious organization. MCWT is a progressive organization that inspires and supports women as they enter, advance, and contribute to Michigan’s technology community.
Last week in partnership with Microsoft Corporation we celebrated 50 “New Geeks.” Since Sisters Code was founded in September 2013, we have trained 50 women to code in Java Script while building interactive websites. Some of the women have gone on to develop websites, start their own businesses, and enrolled in college courses. During the celebration, MCWT Executive Director, Janette Phillips motivated the women to believe in themselves and to consider re-careering into technology.
Since launching our 2020 BYTE 2020 Campaign last week, we have received hundreds of inquiries. It is evident that women are interested in re-careering into the field of technology, however it is very important that they see people that “look like them,” who are already doing it.
Kudos to MCWT for affording Sisters Code’s participants with an opportunity to network with some of the greatest women in technology.
For more information on MCWT please visit: www.mcwt.org
Two Sister Code Weekend Website Warrior Graduates will have an opportunity to take their new coding skills and shadow some of the best developers in the City of Detroit. Chalkfly is an organization that is really working tirelessly to make a positive impact in the community.
As we move towards bridging the technology gender gap, it is very important for women to “see people” who are actually working in the field, and Chalkfly has stepped up to give our participants that opportunity. “Sisters Code is larger than a class, and we will not be a “one hit wonder.” This is a movement to bridge the technology gender gap, therefore we cannot just teach a class and not offer support for further career growth. Asking corporations to offer opportunities like this doesn’t cost anything, however a shadowing or mentoring experience could potentially transform the life of a woman. I would say that the “ask” is worth it,” states Sisters Code Founder, Marlin Page.
Chalkfly’s entire business culture is stemmed in giving back and uplifting the community. When you purchase an item from their online office supply store a portion of your purchase goes DIRECTLY to a teacher of your choice. We all know that teachers are always looking for ways to enhance our children’s learning experience, and Chalkfly’s effort helps get them closer to that goal.
Click here for more information on Chalkfly.
In December 2013 a fearless young lady, Chandra Floyd decided to “Awaken the Mature Geek,” and attend Sisters Code Weekend Website Warrior Experience. Chandra took a break from her work as a Zumba Instructor, and decided to learn to code using Java Script, HTML, and CSS. She did not have previous programming experience, but at Sisters Code…that is not a problem! Sisters Code offers an unconventional style of coding education where we provide: motivation, inspiration, sisterhood, and eliminating barriers by addressing the digital divide and providing all participants with the hardware and software needed to be successful in our classes – definitely not a “one hit wonder.” As proven with Chandra we are transforming the lives of women through technology
In the video she mentioned that the class was life changing, I think she didn’t realize how fast that change would come. One month after the class, Chandra shared some excellent news. I will let Chandra tell you in her own words:
“I’m doing it!!!! I am making my dream a reality. I found an opportunity and seized it. A woman commented in a group that she wanted to do a certain thing (whatever it was I forget) but first she had to get her website in order. I inboxed her and said that in addition to my Zumba classes, I do websites now. I’m looking to build a portfolio and I’d like to volunteer to work on her site.
She agreed to meet me, and I have my first stakeholder meeting this Saturday! I’ll use the resources from Sisters Code to create a checklist of questions to ask her and to define expectations. I will put a time limit and parameters so the project doesn’t drag on forever.
*singing* I’m so excited! I just can’t hide it! I’m about to lose control and I think I like it!” – Chandra Floyd.
We are living in a digital age that is increasingly defined by computer programs that require coding. Most of us have conquered how to work, play, socialize and consume information on apps, but very few of us understand the technology that makes them work. And when that discussion shifts to women, the number is even more alarming. Women make up 46.7 percent of the U.S. workforce, but they represent less than 25 percent of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workers, according to Detroit-based Sisters Code. The founder of this new social enterprise, Marlin Page, is determined to change that statistic.Launched in August, Sisters Code is on a mission to educate, empower and entice women – of all ages and ethnic backgrounds – to explore the world of coding and technology. The Sisters Code vision is to not only get women interested in learning to code, but to ultimately help them land jobs in technology fields.
“It is undeniable that jobs in the technology industry are not going anywhere. No matter the career you choose, you will touch a piece of technology. In every area of our lives, technology is here, and I believe it is very important for people to learn how to code,” said Page, who, in addition to being the brains behind the Sisters Code movement, also travels the country as a STEM speaker and strategist.
During her speaking engagements, Page found that her message was not reaching an important segment of the population: mature women. “I actually started off my professional career as an aspiring mortician and also a middle school substitute teacher in Detroit,” she said. “I thought, what if someone never offered me that opportunity? Then I wouldn’t have this awesome career I have today.”
Page said she knows how it feels to be underrepresented in the world of technology and coding. She made the decision at 25 during her summer break from teaching to learn to code. “It was a hard reality when I started coding. There were women in my class, but by the end, there weren’t many left. The numbers were even more glaring when I entered the executive level of my career,” she said.
Sisters Code is a global social enterprise with a mission to educate, empower, and entice women ages 25 – 85 to explore the world of coding and technology.
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