Changing the face of coding

Ten days ago, the United States women’s national soccer team became the most successful team in the history of the FIFA Women’s World Cup by winning the top prize for the third time. However, despite the fact that soccer is not as popular in America as in the rest of the world, it is not surprising that the U.S. women have been dominant in the sport in recent years. The explanation for that success lies in the talent pipeline. With over 1.5 million girls registered in youth leagues, close to 50 percent of all youth players in the U.S. are female and soccer is one of the top three most popular sports among girls ages 5-19.

Said another way, many girls in the U.S. have the opportunity to learn how to play soccer and, as a result, they benefit from the teamwork, skill development and fun involved. That’s the kind of opportunity I would like to see develop for the technology sector, which presents a different, yet perhaps even more significant, set of opportunities for girls and young women.

Unfortunately, the strength in the talent pipeline that we see in female soccer today is not the reality for technology. The U.S. is facing a shortage of Computer Science (CS) graduates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, every year there are close to 140,000 jobs requiring a CS degree, but only 40,000 U.S. college graduates major in CS, which means that 100,000 positions go unfilled by domestic talent. Even more dramatic is that women in U.S. colleges and universities earn only 18 percent of CS degrees. In middle school, 74 percent of girls express interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), but when choosing a college major, only 0.4 percent of high school girls select computer science.

The true potential of future innovation will only become a reality if more women are part of it. A rich, diverse community of innovators is key for new technologies to address the needs of modern society. That is why Microsoft YouthSpark – a global initiative to create opportunities for all youth to learn computing – supports Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization that aims to close the gender gap in technology in the U.S.

Girls Who Code inspires, educates, and equips girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities. Microsoft sponsors and helps implement the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program, which this year is happening in 60 locations across the country reaching 1,200 girls who will be part of this deep CS learning experience.

In addition to supporting the overall program, Microsoft is hosting the Summer Immersion Program at our campuses in the Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, New York and Redmond as the participants turn their innovative ideas into reality using code, network with mentors and find camaraderie with other young women who share their curiosity and passion for technology. Over the course of seven weeks, these girls will learn computer science skills and everything from robotics to mobile development to HTML.

By supporting organizations such as Girls Who Code, we can help girls become the new face of coding and develop innovations that will drive positive change in the world. Perhaps four years from now, as the world gets ready to watch the next FIFA Women’s World Cup, we’ll be able to talk not only about a healthy pipeline of female soccer players, but also of a surging number of female computer science students and professionals.