Lee's Summit R-7 School District

Empowering Girls to Become Leaders in Tech (OUR SCHOOLS MAGAZINE: NOVEMBER 2020)

Outdated gender stereotypes and a global pandemic are no match for a group of girls working to expand the pool of future tech talent.

Even before COVID-19, Girls Who Code Lee’s Summit faced a steep challenge in helping to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Nevertheless, they organized mentoring sessions at schools around LSR7 to connect with young girls before they felt societal pressure discouraging them from exploring STEM.

Facing the challenge of COVID-19, the girls found an opportunity: an email newsletter to reach more girls (subscribe at lsr7.org/girlswhocode). The newsletter includes engaging activities to teach the basics of coding and to spark interest in STEM.

This year’s group leaders are Eleanor Ammerman (Lee’s Summit High School), Bethany Danley (Lee’s Summit West High School), Annabelle Franke (LSHS), Rori Howery (LSW), Brianna Nguyen (LSW) and Zoey Sears (LSHS).

“COVID-19 has obviously thrown a lot of obstacles into our path, but ultimately with time and support we can find a way over it,” says Eleanor Ammerman. “It’s very similar to coding in that way of when something doesn’t work, you try something new, and when something gets hurled into your path you find a different way around it.”

The group’s inclusive definition of success recognizes the simple power of encouragement.

“Reaching a large amount of people and getting a very big reaction out of our newsletter has been very rewarding but I think the most satisfying thing when we’re mentoring a girl is when you just explain it to her in a slightly different way, and she finally understand and she gets excited about the code and her next activities,” Eleanor says. “She gets excited to come back.”