Microsoft and Black Girls Code Team Up for a Day of Inclusion

 |   MSNY Staff

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

This ubiquitous quote by Marian Wright Edelman is a steady reminder for us here at Microsoft as we drive initiatives to make the field of technology more inclusive — and echoed in our minds last month as we hosted a group of students aged 8 to 17 from Black Girls Code at our Microsoft Technology Center at 11 Times Square.

Black Girls Code (BGC) is a national organization geared toward increasing the number of women of color in STEM fields, empowering girls of color to imagine, build, and create their futures using technology. Their direct goals include providing African-American youth with the skills to occupy some of the 1.4 million computing job openings expected to be available in the U.S. by 2020, and to train 1 million girls by 2040. And we were thrilled to help BGC fuel that mission with a direct look into the life of a woman of color in tech.

“There’s sadly very low statistics for Women in STEM,” Ruth Yakubu, Cloud Solution Architect at ‎Microsoft and organizer of the event, explains. “According to ISACA.org, some of the barriers are due to lack of female role models in the field, lack of mentors, gender bias in the workspace, unequal pay compared to men, or unequal growth opportunities. When I came across Black Girls Code, I loved how they are exposing young black girls to coding at a very age. Plus, it was amazing how Microsoft’s Black Women In Technology got super excited to take time from their busy schedules to participate and empower the girls.”

Our guests from Black Girls Code got a full look at a day in the life of a Microsoft employee; through a tour of our space, students were able to experience new technologies, interact with Microsoft employees, and hear from a panel of women who are paving the way for inclusion and empowerment right here in New York City.

Panelists, right to left: Ruth Yakubu, Maria Naggaga, Jasmine Greenaway, Aisha Davis

The panel discussion, led by Alfred Ojukwu, Technology Solutions Professional and national leader of Blacks at Microsoft (BAM), explored various experiences that women in technology face, particularly at Microsoft.

Panelists included:

  • Maria Naggaga (Sr. Program Manager VS and .NET)
  • Aisha Davis (Technical Account Manager)
  • Jasmine Greenaway (Cloud Developer Advocate II)
  • Ruth Yakubu (Sr. Cloud Developer Advocate)

“Microsoft DigiGirlz was my first experience with technology,” Aisha Davis, Technical Account Manager at Microsoft and panelist told us. “Having the opportunity to meet women engineers who were positively impacting the world around them was extremely inspiring to me and helped encourage me into a STEM field.”

Throughout the day, we were honored to share empowering moments with our student visitors, including a presentation on Microsoft YouthSpark program where the students can search and do self-pace tutorials or use other resources are available free to light the spark of creativity and can be used successfully without a computer science background. Also, the student enaged in the Envision Center which included demos of the Microsoft HoloLens, Skype, AI Cognitive Services; Microsoft Surface Hub whiteboard where students could Draw and sketch shapes w/ a finger on the whiteboard. We were excited to showcase the various technologies Microsoft has to offer to young girls.

“We all have dreams of becoming something as a child,” Davis says. “However, often times the dreams may not be realized if you aren’t aware of others who have trekked a similar path. It’s important to me to support BlackGirlsCode and other diverse programs because having representation and a role-model tell you, ‘You can do it because I did it’ can inspire a generation of leaders willing to forge their own path and give back, continuing the cycle of encouragement and bridging generational collaboration.”

Thank you to Black Girls Code for joining us at our Microsoft Technology Center and sharing your experiences with us. We can’t wait to host you again!

Learn more about Black Girls Code at www.blackgirlscode.com. To host your own event with Black Girls Code in New York, email newyorkchapter@blackgirlscode.org.

Learn more about Microsoft’s initiatives driving diversity and inclusion in tech for students here.

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