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Nonprofit App Camp for Girls Launches Fundraiser

Dismayed by seeing few female engineers at Apple developers conferences, Jean MacDonald, marketing chief at Smile and a friend of many of us at TidBITS, has decided to help bring more young women into the fold.

Jean, along with iOS developer Natalie Osten and TUAW editor Kelly Guimont, have launched a modest fundraiser to jumpstart their new nonprofit, App Camp for Girls. They’ve “alpha tested” a one-day version, have a free “beta test” camp later this month for 12 girls, and plan a regular session for 20 middle-school-age girls in August 2013. It’s part traditional summer camp, with the usual craft and physical activities, and part coding workshop.

The group turned to a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo, which, unlike Kickstarter, will hand over whatever money is collected, even if the campaign doesn’t reach its $50,000 target. (It has reached that goal already, with plenty of time to spare!) Although I’m the father of two boys, I’ve contributed because I want everyone to be able to reach their potential. What I like about App Camp for Girls is that it aims to provide positive role models for girls and open the doors that are so often arbitrarily closed to women in technology.

College-age women have increasingly turned away from computer-science and engineering careers over the last 30 years. While you may think it’s a recent problem, some statistics show the percentage of undergraduate computer science degrees awarded to women was as high as 37 percent in 1984, but subsequently dropped to 29 percent in 1998 and to just 18 percent in 2010 (click the Low Participation link).

There are undoubtedly many reasons for both the disproportionate representation and this downward trend. But society suffers overall when one gender prevails in one of the most lucrative and fastest-growing sectors of white-collar employment. Coding is useful in every information-based job, and it’s a tool for both entrepreneurship and employee advancement.

Happily, App Camp for Girls is part of a larger trend to create opportunities for girls to get involved in programming and engineering by providing training within environments that strive to eliminate the social pressures and other discouragements still prevalent in the broader technology world.


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Comments about Nonprofit App Camp for Girls Launches Fundraiser
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Chris Pepper  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-06-05 12:06
Worth mentioning this is in Portland, Oregon, and the age range. If it was in NYC I would be selling it to J...
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-06-05 14:06
Yeah, I'm bummed there isn't something like this for girls or boys near Ithaca for Tristan. No geek camps at all around here.

As far as I can see, they haven't settled on a location or exact age range for the regular session - the beta test event was for middle-school age girls and for Portland-area families only. It's likely the age range and location will be similar for the real event in August.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-06-05 14:18
While I love any program seeking to give kids new opportunities, and I contributed to this one, I'd love to see programs that offer opportunities for rural kids, regardless of race or gender. As someone who grew up in rural Tennessee in the '90s, I had almost no opportunities to learn computer science, other than the ones provided by my parents' bank account and my own fortitude.

I'm now married to a rural Tennessee high school teacher, and I don't see any more opportunities for these kids to learn coding than I had.

While we could definitely use more female coders, there are lots of excluded segments of the population that aren't as visually obvious.
Jean MacDonald  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2013-06-05 16:07
Hi Josh: That's a really excellent point. We are focused on girls right now, but I hope we build a program that can be used as a model for other groups as well.

PS. And thanks so much for your contribution!
Pam Niedermayer  2013-06-11 00:34
To what end? Have men changed their workplace behavior so that now male managers will promote women? I don't think so. I think they just want a few more slaves to go along with the new H1B workers.

Speaking as someone who spent 34 years developing software; but had to start and run my own business for the last 20 of them to do anything useful and interesting.