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Nonprofit offers free coding classes for girls

Just 18 percent of computer science majors are women. That's down from 37 percent in 1984. It's those numbers that have a Minnesota-based nonprofit determined to get more girls into the tech industry.

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. - Just 18 percent of computer science majors are women. That's down from 37 percent in 1984.

And women only make up 24 percent of the computer engineering workforce, according to a study by Girls Who Code and Accenture.

That's why St. Louis Park-based nonprofit Code Savvy's female-only program, called Rebecca Coder Dojo, is taking on the tech industry – offering free coding classes to girls.

"Our hope is by bringing only girls into the program we can actually get them doing the more technical, the coding part, and so that's what our aim is," said Jane Weiss, the executive director of Code Savvy. "And we really want to fill the pipeline so that when they graduate from college there are more women to go to these companies and hopefully make the ratio more like the population, 50/50."

By introducing the computer coding skills to go-getter girls early, women in the tech industry – like Tiffany Deeb, the Chief Information Officer of Minneapolis Community Technical College – hope to download an interest in computer engineering into their hard drives early, and often.

“It's really crucial to have their interest strengthened and increased and improved and then build that community for them," Deeb said.

Introducing IT to young women doesn't just benefit the girls.

“Everybody is going to touch technology when they get out of school, so everybody needs to know how to use it," Weiss said. "We're trying to teach these kids to be creators, not just users, and the kids love it. The big thing is that it makes them more confident and they can see that this is something that they can do.”

According to the same study, if the right steps are taken now, the share of women in the computing workforce could increase to 39 percent by 2025 – generating an estimated $299 billion in additional cumulative earnings for women.