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Why we sponsored the XPRT Women Code-a-thon

Have you been watching our “Women Coding for Change” series? Sarah wrote about them four weeks ago, and we just released the latest video in the series. We’re thrilled to be sharing them with you, and as part of the team that worked on them, I wanted to tell you a little about why we created these videos.

We wanted to give you, the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community, a window into the code-a-thon itself. We wanted to introduce you to the participants and show their work. But most importantly, we wanted to shed some light on the issue this code-a-thon addressed: the enormous gender gap in computer science.

As you may have already seen in “The Problem,” women hold just 22% of software development jobs. In high school, girls are only 22% of AP Computer Science test-takers. Women are generally underrepresented in STEM fields, but computer science is an especially male-dominated field.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like a problem to you. But the fact is, this gender gap hurts all of us. As technology becomes a larger part of all of our lives, the people who build and test technology increasingly shape how—and for whom—the world works. When women aren’t part of that group, it’s more likely that new technology won’t work as well as it could for everyone. Because computer scientists are 78% men, computer science as a whole is missing valuable input from those with different experiences.

And that’s just the beginning. The field is growing faster than we can keep up with it. In four years, 1.4 million computing-related jobs will be open in the United States. But at current graduation rates, we won’t be able to fill even a third of those jobs. That’s partially because there are so few women in computer science. If we could get more women to join the field, we’d be much closer to having 1.4 million skilled computer science workers to take those jobs and help our economy.

There’s one last reason we wanted to make these videos: representation. A 2013 study found that in family films and prime time TV, women represented only between eight and 34 percent of computer scientists. When young women see depictions of computer scientists in the media, they’re likely seeing people who don’t look like them.

The “Women Coding for Change” series shows an alternative picture. Women were the vast majority of participants and coordinators in the XPRT Women Code-a-thon. In the video series, viewers can meet those women and hear about their experiences.

That’s why the BenchmarkXPRT Development Community co-sponsored the code-a-thon in the first place. And it’s why we think these videos are so important. Once you understand the problem, you’re better able to help. (For more on how to take action, click here.) All of us need to be actively working to fix this issue. Take a look at the first six videos, and watch for new episodes coming soon.

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