My GirlsWhoCode Graduation Speech

I taught a GirlsWhoCode summer immersion program in Los Angeles this summer for 20 high school girls. It was an amazing experience! At graduation I had to give a short speech. These girls cleared made an impact on me   🙂


Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. That is one of the motivational quotes adorning the wall in our classroom.  It’s safe to say everyone of us started this program way out of our own comfort zones.

On day one, as everyone was side eyeing each other and wondering “who is the stranger sitting next to me?” we set the tone by creating a list of classroom rules. Included in this list were “Respect each other”, “no bad ideas” and “stay positive”. Since one of the goals of this program is to teach girls that coding can be fun, I was thrilled to hear a girl yell out “have a good time, party!

Learning to code is not a trivial task and there were many times when “have a good time” seemed out of reach. You may have heard how when a caterpillar makes a cocoon, the transformed butterfly must struggle to free itself. If it doesn’t struggle, it’s wings won’t be strong enough to fly away.

These girls coded their metamorphosis into butterflies working through Scratch, Python, C++, HTML, CSS and Javascript.  During the final project they struggled out of the cocoon, pushing themselves and *choosing* to learn even more on their own.

I would like to share with you some of the things I heard them say through this process.

“Adding the music was pretty easy. it only took two lines of code.”

“I was really proud of working through this problem by myself without having to ask too many questions.”

“Ahhhhh, I’m a genius!”

“This was a productive day, guys.”

When the girls were offered a chance to do something fun while working on their final projects: “Wait, should we stay and work on our projects instead?”

I am so proud of these fabulous butterflies. It will be great to see how their journeys take them to new uncomfortable zones and new successes. Have a good time, indeed!



More Notable Women of Science

Okay, it’s only taken me almost a year but here is another list!

  1. Florence Bascom (1862-1945) Geologist
  2. Jewel Plummer Cobb (1924-Present) Cell Biologist
  3. Irene Joliot Curie (1897-1956) Chemist
  4. Gertrude B. Elion (1918-1999) Chemist and Pharmacologist
  5. Dian Fossey (1932-1985) Anthropologist and Primatologist
  6. Cecilia Helena Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979) Astronomer
  7. Lillian Moller Gilbreth (1878-1972) Industrial Engineer
  8. Olive Clio Hazlett (1890-1974) Mathematician
  9. Ida Hyde (1857-1945) Physiologist
  10. Shirley Ann Jackson (1946-Present) Theoretical Physicist

And I’m willing to be you’ve only heard of one or two of these women, if that! To find out more about the women on this list, go to the Eastern Illinois University website containing biographies of these and other women of science

Notable Women of Science

The Royal Institute of Science announced a fabulous initiative for 2014. The Ri will celebrate women in science with its first ever all women line-up for a year of Friday Evening Discourses. Read more at their website

Several days ago they tweeted a request for nominations of women to celebrate this year. Since the request allowed for women from any age, I offer the list of women scientists in our 2014* Smarty Womyn calendar. Several are well know, some not so much.

  1. Grace Hopper, Computer Scientist, 1906 – 1992
  2. Emmy Noether, Mathematician, 1882 – 1935
  3. Annie Easley, Rocket Scientist, 1933 – 2011
  4. Rachel Carson, Marine Biologist, 1907 – 1964
  5. Kalpana Chawla Space Shuttle Astronaut, 1962 – 2003
  6. Rosalind Franklin, Biophysicist 1920 – 1958
  7. Maria Mitchell, Astronomer,  1818 – 1889
  8. Nettie Stevens, Crypto-geneticist, 1861 – 1912
  9. Ellen Swallow Richards, Chemist, 1842 – 1911
  10. Lise Meitner, Physicist, 1878 – 1968
  11. Ada Lovelace, First Computer Programmer, 1815 – 1815
  12. Marie Curie, Nuclear Physicist, 1867 – 1934

I could go on with many more women but will save them for the next post!

Introduce, Encourage, Accomplish!

Welcome to the SmartyWomyn blog, a continuing  exploration and promotion of getting girls to study and practice STEM careers. While pondering the problem over the last year, I’ve decided to take an engineering approach. Which means form a hypothesis, test it and adjust as necessary based on the data gained during the test. Talk about eating your own dog food!!

So…hypothesis numero uno:

Girls (and boys) have no real concept of what scientists and engineers do. I sure didn’t when my dad constantly harangued me about becoming an engineer. It was easy to brush him off because  I envisioned a bespectacled man hunched over a drafting table with a slide rule.  Certainly not what I wanted to do!

What will happen if we provide consistent opportunities for girls to do fun and collaborative projects that demonstrate what people in STEM fields do?

Next hypothesis:

When girls do show an interest in STEM subjects, they are not encouraged. At least not enough to combat the subtle messages our society constantly dumps on them that girls don’t do math, science, etc. Thus the dramatic drop off in girls’ interest as they enter adolescence. Included in this hypothesis could be the misogyny demonstrated by some adults against women in certain technical fields. Adolescent girls hear about this problem and may decide it’s not worth fighting.

What happens if we amplify the volume on encouragement and dampen the negative antics of a minority of technologists practicing today?

Final hypothesis:

There is not enough celebration of the women who have accomplished great things in STEM areas. While researching women in science for the SmartyWomyn products, I’ve been amazed at all the notable women I’ve never heard of before who have done great things!

What happens if we spread the word of these women? Let girls know that not only is it okay to lead a life of inquiry and exploration, it’s fun, lucrative, and very fulfilling?

Stay tuned as SmartyWomyn explores these hypotheses and reports back our findings!