After studying electrical engineering in college, Kimberly Bryant came up in the tech world surrounded by elderly white men. Decades later, she was disturbed to discover that her daughter’s computer science classrooms looked just like her’s did years ago: almost exclusively male and white. Bryant decided to change that. In 2011, she created Black Girls Code, a nonprofit organization that introduces girls from underrepresented communities to basic skills in computer programming, robotics, app development, and more.
Through volunteer-run workshops in cities across the U.S., the organization has an ambitious vision to introduce 1 million girls to computer science by 2040. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that Black Girls Code [will] teach a million girls,” Bryant explains. “But if we teach 100,000 or 200,000, those girls will become exponential leaders in their own right.”
In the third episode of Artsy’s “Breaking Glass” series, Bryant reflects on the challenges she has faced in her own career as a woman of color in STEM, from being one of the only black women in her college engineering courses to gaining the confidence to lead in a male-dominated workforce. Ultimately, she hopes that Black Girls Code will not only equip girls with hands-on experience, but also confidence and bonds of sisterhood—creating a community that will empower the girls to carve out their own spaces in the tech industry. “I want them to understand,” Bryant says, “that they have the right, the power to create the life they want for themselves.”
Across industries, stories of successful female leaders share a common thread: the profound impact that mentors, particularly female mentors, have had in helping them overcome adversity in their professions. Yet finding a female mentor, or even a role model, is not always a simple task, particularly in male-dominated fields like science, engineering, and technology. In the arts, too, women are underrepresented—and underpaid—in key leadership positions like museum directorships.
Artsy begins to tackle this issue in a series of short films profiling extraordinary women in art and tech who are defining what it means to be a leader in 2018. Each of these visionaries has broken the glass ceiling, overcoming biases and obstacles to pave a way in her field. They now use their platforms to champion the voices of other women. Together, they are empowering the next generation to shape the future of their industries.
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