It Takes a Village: Integrating STEM and Girls of Color

By: Dr. Katherine Jordan

Photo Credit: Black Girls Code - Raleigh-Durham Chapter

Like many of us, Angie Jones wears several hats! She’s a devoted family member, an engineer, a leader, a traveler, a Soror to some, and last but not least, a volunteer. She somehow finds time to fulfill her passion: educating young girls about the splendor of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). I had the pleasure of conducting a phone interview with Angie about her involvement in one specific organization, Black Girls Code. This organization exposes girls of color to engineering fundamentals. They learn how to program robotics, build websites, create mobile apps and develop games. Angie is a co-leader of the Raleigh-Durham Chapter. The Raleigh-Durham area is quite fortunate to have this platform as Black Girls Code only exists in twelve cities.

This movement has gained major traction and it was nothing less than inspirational to talk to this vibrant powerhouse! My initial question probed how she got involved into engineering. Angie responded that she “stumbled” into engineering. She was a business major at Tennessee State University, and her father encouraged her to take a computer course. He explained that having a good knowledge of computers was important. She described her obedience as the catalyst to her love for engineering.

 April Jones (adult)  featured with members of Black Girls Code

April Jones (adult)  featured with members of Black Girls Code

My next questions examined her thoughts on the importance of Black Girls Code. She said, “Girls need to be aware of the possibility. Currently African Americans only represent 3% of professionals in technology. If they can see a person of color namely a woman then they’ll be able to change that number.” I then asked about the girls’ abilities that attend the workshops. She stated that most of them are new to the workshop applications. In fact, she noted of only a small percentage of girls used the applications before. “Do they seem intimidated at all?” I asked. She said the support of the volunteers and leaders keep the girls at ease. I could hear the smile in her voice as she passionately described the girls’ joy as their creations come to life.

My next question asked about any opposition she faced because the organization focuses on Black girls. I continued that organizations like Black Lives Matter and Black Girls Rock often have been the product of major criticism. She responded that everyone knows of the disparity of black girls in STEM. She continued that it’s going to take a village to change the phenomenon.

I continued with the notion of a village, “who is the village if people of color aren’t represented in STEM?”

Her response: “Everyone!” She spoke about how Black Girls Code needs nontechnical and technical volunteers. The nontechnical volunteers help in registration, food preparation, classroom assistance and overall logistics. Angie also mentioned that people could always sponsor girls to attend events. As we wrapped up the call, I really felt optimistic about the future! She remarked that technology is ever changing. Black Girls Code prepares our girls for this evolution.

Angie Jones is a strong contributor to our technical community and she challenges us all to join in any capacity that we can! We are the village.

Dr. Katherine Jordan