203: Making Technology Fun, Relevant, and Accessible for Girls, with Betty Gronneberg, uCodeGirl
uCodeGirl offers pathways to technology careers for teen girls by tapping into their curiosity, skills, and potential.
Betty Gronneberg grew up in Ethiopia. She attended Addis Ababa University where she majored in statistics. Betty recalls a day in college when she saw her name on a list of students who had been accepted into the new Computer Science track. She was one of two female students on the list. This was 1991. The “world wide web” had not yet been invented. Betty learned to write simple programs in BASIC, an early computer language.
Betty’s experience grew rapidly as the internet began to spread. She became a country-wide email administrator for Ethiopia. In 1995, she became the first webmaster for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. With each new assignment, Betty noticed that she was one of the few women in the room. In 1995, 37% of computing jobs went to women. Since women make up half of the population, that’s bad news. And, the news is getting worse. Today, according to Betty, “Nationally 18% of the technology sector is made up of women.”
Betty began to ask a fundamental question. “In this great United States, where everything is possible, why are there not many women?” According to Betty, girls begin to lose interest in technology around middle school, when the girls are around 12 or 13 years old. They don’t see the relevance of technology in their everyday lives. Betty began to imagine an organization that helps young girls to apply technology in a fun environment.
To help her work out the details of this new organization, Betty applied for and became a Bush Fellow with the Bush Foundation. From the beginning, as she was filling out her application for the Bush Fellowship, she began to refine her ideas. Through her experience with the Bush Foundation, she formed a new organization, uCodeGirl. uCodeGirl is a Fargo, North Dakota based nonprofit that focuses on building confidence and talent for young girls between the ages of 12 and 18, and to inspire them to pursue opportunities in technology.
uCodeGirl is making technology fun, relevant, and accessible. Girls learn leadership skills and an entrepreneurial mindset. Leading women in technology provide mentoring.
uCodeGirl also helps girls to learn hands-on skills. They provide a three-week summer camp where the girls can experiment with technology to solve their own problems. In the process, they help the girls to build a pathway to a career in technology.
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Betty Gronneberg
“We want to go to the young girls where the divergence happens and cultivate their confidence.”
“Nationally 18% of the technology sector is made up of women.”
“It’s like nothing changed, but everything changed.”
“I have always been resourceful and resilient.”
“We want to help young girls to see technology as a solution for real-world problems.”
“We want to cultivate their confidence.”
“When you exude that passion, it’s easy for people to say, I’m here to help. What can I do?”
“Not everybody is an early adopter of your idea.”
“Be okay with no.”
“It takes all of us to be a tech savvy generation.”
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- UCodeGirl: http://www.ucodegirl.org/
- UCodeGirl on Twitter: https://twitter.com/uCodeGirl
- UCodeGirl on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/uCodeGirl/
- Bush Foundation: https://www.bushfoundation.org
- Book: Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs: https://tonyloyd.com/book