The program is run through Girl’s Who Code, a national nonprofit launched in 2012 that works to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors.
Joyce Gomez, a rising senior at Francis Lewis High School and resident of East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights local Daniela Leguisamo, a rising junior at the Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria, are participating in a program hosted by AT&T at their office in Rockefeller Center.
Bright young women from the five boroughs convene every weekday for the intensive course, which also offers the opportunity for successful women from the tech field to come and talk to the girls about their own experiences and careers.
For Gomez and Leguisamo, the program has allowed them to hone skills they started develop in school, while also learning about new topics, like robotics.
Gomez explained that her interest in coding came from a coding class she took in high school, which was dominated by male students.
“There were only five girls in the class, and none of them felt comfortable applying at all,” Gomez said. “They were intimated by it because they weren’t doing well in the class, but I actually felt excited to do it.”
While both girls acknowledged that they had noticed a gender gap in their experiences in the tech world, they said they felt proud to be women in a male-dominated field.
“I do feel proud, because seeing that there are so many other girls interested in this, it feels nice,” Leguisamo said. “You feel like, ‘Hey, I’m not the only one.’ So sometimes it might seem a little intimidating, and then I realize I’m doing something I love.”
At the end of the program, all of the girls work on final projects that combine and test the skills and knowledge they have picked up over the course of eight weeks.
While there is still time to develop proposals, Gomez and Leguisamo both already had ideas for what they would like to create.
Gomez wants to make a video game that features some of her favorite things, and one she can play with her little brother.
Leguisamo said that after working with some girls at Girls Who Code on a project, they found it was difficult to collaborate on a coding project and all do work at the same time.
“So we were thinking of a website or program that is kind of like a coding Google doc, so it will allow to code with a group and collaborate,” she said.
Both girls said they see themselves continuing in the tech field later in life.
“I am currently going to be a senior, and I am definitely thinking about majoring in computer science because coding is really fun for me,” Gomez said. “I would love to continue doing it, especially for a living.”
Marissa Shorenstein, AT&T’s New York President, said that the goal is to have many of the girls who participate in the Girls Who Code program continue studying and working in tech after the program is over.
AT&T is a financial supporter and major sponsor of Girls Who Code, which allows for all of the girls to attend the eight-week program free of charge.
“We’re very excited about the potential of these girls pursuing software and engineering in college, and hoping they will eventually want to bring that talent back to a company like AT&T,” Shorenstein said.
As a speaker and active leader in AT&T’s Girls Who Code program, Shorenstein said she sees first hand the benefits the program has for young women.
“I believe that Girls Who Code is really paving the way for more gender diversity in fields of computer science and software engineering for careers at places like AT&T,” she said.
“For AT&T it’s very important that we have a diverse workforce, and that’s why we invest in programs like this. There is still is a gap and we believe that Girls Who Code is working to reduce that gap.”