Five Questions with Mikayla Konst, Girls Who Code Instructor

What is the mission and history of Girls Who Code nationally and in the Seattle area?

The idea behind Girls Who Code is that we need close the gender gap in technology by empowering girls with the skills and confidence needed to take on some of the most sought-after jobs in the U.S. Today, less than a quarter of computing jobs are held by women, and that number is declining.

In 1995, women made up 37% of the computing workforce. Today, it’s 24%. According to new research from GWC and Accenture, in 10 years it’ll decline to 22%. This is the third year that AT&T has hosted Girls Who Code in the Seattle area, and we’re grateful for their support this summer.

Why did you decide to get involved with Girls Who Code?

I’ve always loved teaching. In college, I led computer science workshops every week and helped organize “Hour of Code” days for local schools and Girl Scout troops. I had always wanted to get involved with a program like this, so I felt very lucky when I got to meet and interview with some folks from Girls Who Code last fall at the Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computing.

I’m going to be working full time as a software engineer at Google in Kirkland this fall, and even though most of my friends have already started working, I chose a September start date specifically so that I could participate in this program. Watching how hard these girls work every day and seeing all the crazy ideas they dream up is inspiring and makes all the hard work worth it. I don’t know any other way I’d rather spend my summer.

What is your favorite story related to how Girls Who Code has impacted a girl (or girls) life (or lives)?

This is my first year with Girls Who Code, so the only girls I have known personally who have been through the program are the twenty girls who are in my class right now, and they are just finishing up Week 4.

One girl did mention to me in our weekly one-on-one meeting that she never thought of herself as an engineer before, but now she is thinking about pursing engineering in college and is planning to start her own Girls Who Code club at her high school next year.

What kind of events does the program organize for students?

Here in Redmond, AT&T organized a mentoring event for the students where they were able to hear from local AT&T employees. The students met with the mentors one-on-one, which was a great opportunity for the girls to ask the mentors questions about career development.

We are also taking the students on a behind-the-scenes tour of the ROOT SPORTS studios in Bellevue later this month. We want the girls to get an understanding of all the different kinds of industries that tech plays such a vital role in, and broadcasting is certainly one of those fields. We’ll visit during a Mariners game so that we can get a front-row seat into the production of a live sports event.

Our students are required to build a working product as part of the program, and we use our graduation ceremony in late August as a platform for them to demo and showcase their products. We try to emphasize creating products that can do some social good or solve some kind of problem. We’re all excited to see what they come up with!

How can volunteers or girls get involved with Girls Who Code?

There’s all kinds of ways to get involved! We have Girls Who Code Clubs in addition to our Summer Immersion Program. The clubs can be offered at a local school or a library or other meeting place, just as long as there’s interest and computers available. Head to the Girls Who Code site to learn about how to volunteer your time with the organization.

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