'Black Girls Code' Teams Up With Ciara for Contest to Encourage Students to Make Music With Tech

The organization is looking to bridge the gap in STEAM education for Black girls.

<p>Nitat Termmee / Getty Images</p>

Nitat Termmee / Getty Images

Fact checked by Sarah Scott

Representation matters. And diversity and representation in the workplace continue to be important for young Black girls and gender-nonconforming youth especially when it comes to jobs in technology-related fields.

Despite the exciting advancements in the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) field, it's disheartening to note the persistent underrepresentation of black girls and gender-nonconforming youth of color. While the tech world thrives on innovation, diversity is not always reflected in its workforce.

According to a report from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), only 3% of computing-related occupations are held by Black women. This lack of representation not only limits the diversity of thought and perspective but also deprives the STEAM community of the unique talents and creativity that black girls can bring to the table.

Encouragingly, organizations like Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code are working to bridge this gap, providing opportunities, resources, and mentorship to empower young black girls to explore and excel in STEAM fields.

“Technology and AI are not the future. They are impacting the now,” says Cristina Jones, the CEO of Black Girls Code. “Black girls are the most underrepresented in tech. There are only 15% women of color with Bachelor's degrees in these fields with Black women making up only 3%. It is imperative that we get them in the room.”

Founded in 2011, Black Girls Code has been dedicated to placing one million girls of color in tech by 2040. The organization ignites interest, activates potential, and nurtures careers in tech for girls and women of color ages 7-25. They partner with schools, local organizations, and volunteers to get participants the resources they need to thrive. For more than a decade, Black Girls Code has provided Black girls, girls of color, and gender nonconforming youth with computer programming education to nurture their careers in STEAM.

For Black Girls Code, their new Build a Beat Challenge is just the beginning. Running through December 31, 2023, “Build a Beat Challenge with Ciara” invites young coders to join Infosys Foundation USA's Pathfinders Online Institute to access engaging video tutorials, designed and developed by Black Girls Code, to guide students on their coding journey. Using these newly acquired skills, participants will craft their unique songs and remixes, blending their creativity with sounds from artists like Ciara, Alicia Keys, Common, Pharrell, and more.

The winners will be selected by a panel of celebrity judges including Hip Hop pioneer MC Lyte, music producer and entrepreneur Craig King, TikTok sensation The BoykinZ, GRAMMY Award-winning artist and producer Bosko Kante, Rock the Bells President James Cuthbert, and more. They'll have the opportunity to meet global superstar Ciara during a live video call, as well as receive up to $10,000 in tech prizes.

According to the Science and Engineering Indicators Program of the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), as of the early 2020s, black women were still underrepresented in STEM occupations. Only about 12% of employed black women held STEM jobs, showcasing the need for increased diversity in these fields. The journey often continues after college. Studies indicate that while black women earn a significant number of bachelor's degrees in STEM disciplines, their representation diminishes in advanced degrees and the professional workforce.

“I’ve been a software engineer for over a decade and I’m always the only black woman on any team I’ve been in. Even right now in 2023, I’m in a graduate program and I’m the only black woman in the class. So black women being underrepresented is an understatement” says Roodlyne Mason who is a mom, blogger, and software engineer. “Programs like Black Girls Code that are geared specifically toward Black girls are invaluable because our community has a lot of catching up to do. It’s all hands on deck now and programs like Black Girls Code are needed more than ever.”

While the Build A Beat Challenge is geared towards girls 13-18, Black Girls Code works with girls as young as seven, and through age 25.

“I want to make sure that our girls don't miss this next wave of opportunity. It’s not about tomorrow, it’s today,” says Jones.

Related: 23 Fun STEAM and STEM Activities for Kids

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