Friday, August 14, 2015

Guest Blogger: Gold Awardee, Natalie Gold Works to Close Gender Gap in STEM Careers

My name is Natalie Gold. I’ve been a Girl Scout for the past eight years, and I’m starting my junior year at Santa Monica High School. I became interested in coding after hosting a Made with Code party for Santa Monica Girl Scouts at my house, where we all coded bracelets. My high school didn’t have a computer science class or a coding class, so at the beginning of my sophomore year my friend and I started a Google Coding Club. We learned the basics of how to code from websites such as Made with Code and Codecademy, and we contacted UCLA to ask if computer science students could come to our high school and teach us how to code. They came twice a month, also teaching us web design, html, and JavaScript. We also toured the Google office in Venice.

Wanting to get more kids involved in coding, my Girl Scout troop and I also created an after-school coding program at a Title 1 elementary school in Santa Monica. At that point my interest in coding had grown so much that in June of 2015 I completed a program at UCLA that taught me how to code in Java, and I created a game of tic-tac-toe. When I was first learning how to code it was very challenging and sometimes frustrating, but I learned to be patient.

Coding teaches you skills and traits that help you every day. It’s a great way to express yourself and have fun while doing it. I am so glad I got into it, and I wish more girls would. It’s really sad to think that only 24 percent of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs and 26 percent of computer science jobs are held by women. The main reason women don’t go into these fields is because they don’t know enough when they are young about the educational and job opportunities that are out there. That’s why it’s so important that more girls get involved in STEM and STEAM (STEM plus art).

For my Gold Award project, I wanted to inspire more girls to go into STEAM careers, particularly engineering. Engineers solve problems and help the world around us. I created a website, that gave information about each type of engineer and what they do. I also interviewed 23 female engineers from different companies and universities across the country, including Google, Apple, JPL, UCLA, and Stanford, and did multiple presentations all around my community. 

One of the women I interviewed was Emilia Pana, a software engineer at Google. She studied computer science in college and loves working for Google, and she was a huge part of why I got interested in computer science and STEAM. Google’s partnership with Girl Scouts is so important to all girls today because it gives them a view of the future and encourages them to try new things. Google teaches girls that the most important keys to success are imagination, access to education, and a strong work ethic.

I was very excited to tour and present at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, and I loved meeting all the other Girl Scouts who have the same passion for computer science. I learned so much and had a great time. My favorite part of the day was meeting all the women who work at Google and hearing how they got there. They all gave great advice. One of the most exciting things I learned about at Google was the “moon shot” idea: a goal that seems impossible to reach but that could change the world. This inspired me to continue to code and start thinking of my own “moon shot” idea. 

In the future, computer science will become even more critical for diagnosing, treating, and curing disease, as well as preventing and treating injuries. Because of the potential for the work being done in these fields to make a positive impact on the world, in college I plan to major in biomedical engineering and minor in computer science. And who knows? Maybe one day I will design and program a medical device that will make people’s lives better by preventing illness and enhancing wellness.

Click here to learn more about Made With Code and the resources they offer.