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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Code With Her Aims to Close Computer Careers’ Gender Gap

NONPROFITS: Organization Result of Intuit, Girl Scout Partnership

According to a 2022 JetBrains global survey of software developers, women make up only 5% of the profession – a statistic that San Diego-based Code With Her is looking to change.

Kylie Taitano
Co-founder
Code With Her

“Our mission with Code With Her is to close the gender, diversity and socio-economic gaps in tech,” said co-founder Kylie Taitano, who works as a developer on Intuit’s Turbo Tax Online team.

Taitano’s journey into a programming career is emblematic of why young girls need coding opportunities at an early age. The Guam native moved to San Diego in 2002 after typhoons destroyed the island territory, impacting her education.

Hard work in school led her to UC San Diego, where she majored in computer science “purely because it had the word computer in it” after her chosen major was impacted.

At the time, her experience with computers was limited to modifying the HTML on her MySpace page. Her first real experience with coding, she said, was on her first day of class as a student at UCSD.

Taitano credits her success in UCSD’s computer science program on finding an open position on the founding board of Women in Computing @ UCSD (WIC).

“It was through WIC that I found my passion for giving back to women in tech,” she said. “I realized learning coding earlier in life would have been helpful for me and I wanted to grow that opportunity for younger generations of women in computer science.”

Taitano carried that desire to give back into her career at Intuit, where she was active in the company’s Tech Women @ Intuit program.

Through Tech Women @ Intuit, Taitano met her Code With Her co-founders Manisha Aswani and Michela Mitchell. The trio met worked with a group of local San Diego Girls Scouts who entered in the Technovation Challenge. Taitano and Aswani sponsored the group through Tech Women @ Intuit and worked with Mitchell who at the time ran STEM programs for Girl Scouts San Diego. The Scout’s project – an app that showed young people how much water they consume – took first place in the Challenge’s regional competition.

The three continued working on projects bringing computer programming education to girls though Tech Women @ Intuit for a short while after, but when Aswani left for company for a position at Facebook and Mitchell took a job at the San Diego Blood Bank, the three decided to keep their work going on their own and founded Code With Her in 2017.

The program was an instant success with local Girl Scouts like Jessica Luo who became a Code With Her student in 2018 when she was a 12-year-old interested in app development. Through the program, Luo’s Healthy Habits App earner her a Girl Scouts Gold Award and she even pitched it to executives at a Fortune 500 company.

“Ever since I met Kylie, she has been a great mentor and friend and has helped guide me through the entire process of app development and business creation which has been more involved than I could have ever thought,” she said.  “Code With Her has helped me to develop skills I will need to pursue a career as a female leader in STEM with an emphasis in computer science.”

In 2018 and 2019, Code With Her was serving a few hundred local Girl Scouts like Luo per year. In March 2020, the nonprofit held its last in-person cybersecurity workshop for around 70 girls one week before the COVID pandemic shutdowns.

The pandemic shutdowns, Taitano said, ended up being a “launching ground” for Code With Her as parents sought to keep their daughters engaged with online learning opportunities through teleconferencing apps like Zoom.

“In April, we put up three cybersecurity workshops and we were starting to get requests from Girl Scout parents across the country,” Taitano said. “That’s how we were able to rapidly grow from serving like 300 Girl Scouts every year between 2018 and 2019 to just blowing up and serving thousands of Girl Scouts across the nation.”

Today, Code With Her serves around 3,000 Girl Scouts annually and has expanded its program to include all underrepresented populations with new community partners such as United Women of East Africa, San Diego Youth Services and Poway Unified where Code With Her trains teachers on coding instruction.

Code With Her

Founded: 2017
Directors: Kylie Taitano, Manisha Aswani and Michela Mitchell
Business: Nonprofit organization teaching girls computer coding skills
Employees: 4 (plus 12 volunteers)
Website: codewithher.org
Notable: Code With Her programs serve nearly 3,000 across the country girls per year.

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