Jack Dorsey knows code. The co-founder of Twitter and CEO of the mobile payments company Square, Dorsey has the perfect pedigree of a Silicon Valley programmer turned business mogul.
Dorsey grew up in tech at a time when men dominated the field. They still do. Only about 20 percent of programmers are women. But with changing attitudes and programs like Square’s College Code Camp, which Dorsey participates in, the gender gap is slowly starting to close.
“I think it starts at an early age — I think that’s when the gender divide really starts,” says Jackie Orth, a “camper” and college senior from the University of Louisville.
“Boys get Legos for Christmas. Girls get Barbies and get interested in fashion design, while boys get interested in building and creating new things,” she says.
Square’s CFO Sarah Friar admits that changing the culture isn’t going to happen overnight but says Square’s commitment to strong female leadership is a great signal to young women entering the field.
“In my mind there is no better thing we can do to inspire women engineers than to show right at the head of engineering at Square, we have a woman [Alyssa Henry] and she’s amazing.”
Eva Snyder, a sophomore at Mount Holyoke College, agrees: “I definitely think having strong female role models, even something as small as if your sixth-grade teacher in mathematics is a woman, makes a big difference.”
The four-day immersion program of College Code Camp is designed to inspire, educate, and empower the next generation of women in technology. The program uses leadership sessions, coding workshops, and a hackathon to bring together top female engineering students and build a stronger community around women in tech.
With an average salary of over $87,000 for U.S. tech professionals, it’s easy to see why more women would want to enter the field.
Dorsey hopes Code Camp returns benefits for future and current Square employees.
“It’s just doing it on a daily basis,” he says, “and if we can really have a program and people can actually see our folks who live it every single day and who really push themselves and also get pushed by the energy and the drive that they see from these girls, everyone gets better for it.”