Kimberly Bryant said the problem in Silicon Valley was plain to see: As the biotech engineer began exploring launching a health-tech startup and attending meetups, there weren’t many faces like hers. “There were very few women and nobody of color. I found that puzzling since the startup industry was obviously booming,” Bryant said.
Of course, the digital divide in tech isn’t exclusively a valley problem. Bryant decided to start a nonprofit to help change that.
Today her organization, Black Girls Code, brings affordable and accessible technology education to girls of color ages 7-17. The nonprofit, which launched in 2011 at its home base in San Francisco, has chapters in seven cities, including New York, Detroit and Memphis. Now, it’s coming to Miami.
The Miami Dade Economic Advocacy Trust (MDEAT), which is focused on improving life in targeted urban areas, is funding the chapter, partnering with Miami Dade College’s Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center. Through the partnership, Black Girls Code will bring a number of workshops and classes to South Florida in the coming year, the organizations announced this week.
Ron Butler, economic development action committee chair for MDEAT, said the organization was looking for a way to invest in the emerging tech sector, and “through this national entity we can focus on the future — young girls who have been excluded from the tech boom and get them involved in an early way.”
The first full-day workshop on the schedule is “Build a Webpage in a Day” on Nov. 23. Elementary, middle and high school girls each will get a different level of curriculum, and by the end of day leave with their own webpage. In the plans are more one-day workshops, such as on building an app or game, and possibly a six- to eight-week Saturday program and a summer camp. Costs for the workshops are low, and scholarships are provided to students who can’t afford them, Bryant said.
“For these students, the goal is not to be just consumers of tech but creators of tech,” said Leigh Toney, executive director of the Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center. Toney is part of the steering group bringing the nonprofit to Miami, along with Felecia Hatcher, CEO of Feverish Pops, who has provided scholarships to students and helped to shape the Black Girls Code program in Atlanta, Bryant said.
To launch Black Girls Code Miami and to put out a call for local volunteers and sponsors, the organizations are having a launch open house Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Meek Center. Along with local representatives, Bryant will be there to explain the program, show a documentary film about it and answer questions. Register for the launch here: https://miamibgckickoff.eventbrite.com/.
To register for the Nov. 23 workshop, go here: http://miamibuildawebpage2014-eorg.eventbrite.com/
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg