Microsoft offers free coding classes for girls throughout March

It’s hardly news that there are relatively few women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries. Although female workers comprise 48 percent of the American workforce, women only hold 24 percent of all STEM jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

In light of that sad statistic, Microsoft is trying to get girls interested in these lucrative jobs early, with the hope to empower more women to pursue studies and careers in STEM fields. This month, the company is offering free coding and career workshops to girls ages 11-18 at Microsoft store locations across the country.

microsoft store customers photo
Getty Images | Bryan Thomas

Why Encouraging Girls To Pursue STEM Careers Is Important

Teenage girls begin losing interest in STEM subjects around the age of 15, according to research by Microsoft. And once their interest is lost, it seems that young women rarely get it back.

The field of computer science seems to be making gains but still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality. In 2017, female students made up only 26 percent of all takers of the Advanced Placement exam in computer science. That’s up sharply from 17 percent of all takers in 2007, but is obviously far from equal representation.

However, Microsoft is hoping to improve those numbers with its “DigiGirlz” initiative, which are 2-hour interactive workshops for middle school and high school girls. The free events being held at Microsoft store locations throughout March will let girls meet and hear from women in industries like aerospace, aviation and coding during the first hour of the workshop. The second hour will be devoted to a hands-on introduction to coding and an opportunity to work on their own project.

girl coding photo
Getty Images | Rachel Murray

Why We Need More Women In STEM Fields

As the #MeToo movement has shown us, harassment and gender bias is a problem that affects nearly every industry. However, it seems to be especially noteworthy in STEM fields, where female employees are vulnerable, in part, because they are so largely outnumbered. Even Microsoft has been the subject of at least one lawsuit in 2017 related to gender-based complaints.

That’s why, to solve the issue of gender imbalance in STEM professions, programs, like Microsoft’s DigiGirlz, can hopefully make a difference simply by getting women interested in these fields at a young age.

female scientists photo
Getty Images | Sarah Morris

The DigiGirlz workshops will be held at Microsoft stores on select Saturday mornings through the end of March. You can find the closest Microsoft location nearest you and check a list of upcoming workshops at the company’s website.

[h/t: A Plus]