Growing up in St. Louis, Karlie Kloss, now a world-famous supermodel, was always interested in math and science. These two disciplines also form the foundation for coding, which provides the structure to create computer software, apps and websites. For students nowadays, coding is becoming as essential a skill as reading and writing.
However, as in many programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the ratio of young girls to boys involved in the programs reflects the career fields that come out of these fields of interest: The definitive gap between the two skews heavily, so that many of these STEM-centric occupations are male-dominated.
A 2014 Google study published by The Washington Post revealed that in the middle of the 1980s, 37 percent of computer-science majors were women. As of 2012, the number had dwindled to 18 percent. Word associations from this study showed the difference between perceptions of computer science among women familiar with the field and women unfamiliar with the field. The lists differ starkly: Women familiar with computer science find it interesting to intricately know technology, while women unfamiliar with computer science perceive it to be boring, nerdy or difficult.
The field also largely lacks visible female role models, which is why in recent years, female-led initiatives have worked to get girls interested in coding, including one led by Kloss herself. Two years ago, she attended the Flatiron School in New York, the programming school renowned for its immersive, part-time and online web-development courses. She completed Flatiron’s two-week coding program, learning the Ruby on Rails software language – which powers commonly used websites and apps including Twitter, The New York Times, Groupon and Hulu – and left inspired.
Last year, Kloss launched a full-ride scholarship program for girls ages 13 to 18 to attend the same program she did at the school. The program received 600 video applications from girls around the world, from which 21 girls from 11 states were selected to attend the program. Of these 21 girls, 14 had no prior coding experience, and by the end of two weeks, all 21 left as software engineers. The students learned fundamentals in back-end software engineering, collaborating with their fellow attendees to create their own functioning web apps.
This summer, Kloss is taking her scholarship on the road through Kode With Klossy, a full-scholarship, two-week coding summer camp that will take place in three cities: St. Louis, New York City and Los Angeles. Each camp will give about 20 girls, ages 13 to 18, the chance to learn to apply Ruby on Rails from Kode With Klossy instructors and then use coding to build real apps. The goal of the program is to bridge the gap between men and women in STEM fields, and empower young girls to pursue careers in coding. For many of the girls, the camp will mark their first coding experiences. The curriculum for the camps is supported by the Flatiron School’s learn.co platform and is based on the program Kloss learned there.
Kloss hopes to attend portions of each camp throughout the summer to meet the participants and encourage them in their journeys as they delve into their new skill sets – and in many cases, their new potential career paths.
In a March 2016 blog post for Motto, a digital publication from the editors of Time, Kloss drew parallels between what she has learned from coding and fashion, asserting that both require creativity, problem-solving and self-expression. Through the coding classes she has taken, Kloss has become outspoken about the power of code, providing the support system to shape fashion, music, business and social good.
Kloss’ hometown Kode With Klossy camp will be held June 20 to July 1. For more information, visit kodewithklossy.com.