On 15 August HSBC USA held a graduation party for 21 teenage girls who’d taken part in the first-ever ‘Girls Who Code’ programme held in the bank.
Helping to organise and run the scheme is probably the best thing I have ever done in a technology career that’s well into its third decade. That’s a pretty big claim, so let me explain…,
Girls Who Code is an independent organisation that has trained 90,000 women in the last seven years in the US and Canada to improve the gender balance in the IT industry. While the number of technology jobs has boomed the number of females in IT has fallen significantly. In 1995, 37 per cent of computer scientists in the US were women; that had fallen to 24 per cent by 2017 and is projected to drop to 22 per cent by 2027, according to Girls Who Code.
The good news is that students who complete a Girls Who Code programme and enrol for a college degree are 15 times more likely than the US average to choose a computer science or related course.
Over seven weeks in July and August the 16 and 17-year-old students came into HSBC’s offices in the heart of Manhattan every working day to learn about coding, artificial intelligence and robotics and they used their new-found skills to develop prototype web apps supporting homelessness, sustainability and endangered animals and more.
They got hands-on in a tech lab developed in collaboration with HSBC’s own in-house Technology Academy and got to use cutting-edge equipment including a 3D printer and virtual reality headsets. At the end of the course we donated the laptops they’d been using so they could continue to learn and explore.
We took them on field trips, including to the New York Stock Exchange to understand the practical implementation of IT on our world. Each girl had a female technologist as a mentor because seeing women in senior roles gives girls role models to encourage them to aim for the top jobs themselves.
We also shared life skills - by coming to the office, interacting with their mentors and everyone who took part in the programme the students also learned how big companies work – a precious insight I didn’t have the chance to learn at their age. The girls were amazing – insightful, articulate, intelligent, supportive of each other and brimming with enthusiasm.
That’s why Girls Who Code is probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my IT career; through it we have been able to influence young girls in their career decisions and allow them to make an impact. Over time I fully expect we’ll see some of them come back to HSBC Technology in a graduate programme or as experienced IT professionals.
It’s been amazing!