Kou Art/flickr

Kou Art/flickr

The supermodel and super coder is partnering with schools and nonprofits to encourage young women to pursue coding.

In an effort to disrupt the typically male-dominated world of tech, Victoria’s Secret and Vogue model Karlie Kloss has launched a campaign to give young women the tools and education they need to start coding. Kloss is partnering with schools in New York City, St. Louis, and Los Angeles to set up intensive coding camps and invite teenage girls with an interest in tech to participate, changing the attitudes and assumptions about who can and should code.

From Modeling to Coding

Kloss has always been interested in math and science, and assumed she would follow her father’s footsteps into the world of medicine. After “ending up in the world of fashion” where “there’s not much math,” the supermodel took steps on her own to learn coding, citing her passion for understanding the fundamentals of how things work. Two summers ago, she enrolled in a course at the Flatiron School based in New York City, where her passion for women in tech began taking shape.

In the following summer, according to i-D, Kloss teamed up with the Flatiron School to create the Kode with Karlie scholarship, a two-week intensive program for teen girls. During the course, Kloss and 21 young women learned the robust language Ruby, the same that powers social media site Twitter. The advocate and her students even programmed a drone to deliver cookies across the classroom.

So successful was the program that Kloss is expanding this year to create the Kode with Klossy summer camp available in NYC, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. The camp will provide scholarships for 80 girls that will help to make an education in principles of computer engineering coding languages like Ruby more accessible.

Closing the Gap

Children using tablets

lcr3cr/Pixabay

Kloss’s powerful efforts to encourage young women to pursue paths in technology come at a time when the gender gap in Silicon Valley is only widening. In 2013, women made up just 26% of computing professionals and only 12% of working engineers, according to USA Today. These numbers are substantially lower than 30 years ago, as fewer women are choosing to study STEM in higher education — 57% of bachelor’s degrees awarded in the US are earned by women, but only 12% are in the field of computer science.

Also concerning is the rate at which the women who do work in tech choose to leave, according to the LA Times. As many as 50% of those working in science, engineering, and technology will exit the field as a result of hostile work environments, a sense of isolation, or an unclear career path. Women are often passed up for positions or promotions for a male counterpart, a pattern hurting an industry with an already deep shortage of qualified workers.

Leading the Charge

For Kloss, coding is the “language of the future,” and her organized efforts like Girls Who Code are making great strides towards disrupting sexism in tech and empowering young women to take charge. Simple DIY platforms like InfiniteMonkeys serve as a great introduction for would-be female coders to explore the world of tech and to experiment with app-making, no prior coding experience required.

The freedom to unapologetically pursue our passions should not be stifled by expectations and assumptions, and Karlie Kloss is working hard to make sure that for young women in tech, those expectations become a thing of the past.