Celebrating Dr. Tarika Barrett’s First Anniversary as CEO
Today is a special day. Though I’ve devoted nearly six years of my professional energy and attention to closing the gender gap in tech, today marks my first anniversary as CEO of Girls Who Code — it’s been a truly incredible first year on the job.
As CEO, I’ve had the privilege of speaking publicly on behalf of the most marginalized groups in the tech industry. It has been, and continues to be, among my deepest honors to advocate for so many students who have benefited from Girls Who Code’s transformative programming — students who have fallen in love with computer science and coding, and who are changing the image of what a coder looks like and does.
I’ll admit that when I decided to take on this new role in the middle of a global pandemic, people thought I was crazy — I thought I might be crazy! It felt like a tremendous risk, embarking on such a major change at a time of immense uncertainty. So much of Girls Who Code’s work was in person. We so often enacted our core value of sisterhood in communal spaces, be it Clubs in schools and other community spaces across the country, or our Summer Immersion Program in New York City.
But the pandemic forced us to think differently, and our incredible team designed virtual programming prioritizing accessibility and flexibility. Defined by live and asynchronous instruction, small-group work, and project-based learning, we came to find that we weren’t just supporting our students but creating the conditions for so many to thrive. In fact, our virtual programming allowed us to reach exponentially more students than we have before — especially more students in poor and rural areas.
I learned through our students, charted new territory with them, and was inspired by their drive, even amidst the greatest challenges.
Did I mention my team? I cannot begin to express how much I value the staff at Girls Who Code. I’ve known and worked with many of the people on my team for years as COO of the organization. The support structure that I needed changed once I became CEO, and my team rallied around me to guide me in my new role and I am forever grateful. I also want to acknowledge the wonderful support of our Board of Directors, and especially from our Founder and my friend Reshma Saujani who remains our biggest champion.
Despite what was happening in the world, it was also a year of fun, a year of exciting new projects, and a year of celebration. In honor of International Day of the Girl in October, we launched a multimedia campaign called “Make That Change,” sending a bold message to girls: when you learn to code, you can not only make the change you want to see in the world, but by choosing a career in tech, you can change your life too. We partnered with international icon Doja Cat on “Doja Code,” the world’s first codable music video for her hit song “Woman.” We also partnered with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a collaboration with the ambitious goal of bringing the number of women working in cybersecurity to 50% by 2030. And just yesterday, Girls Who Code was named one of the 50 Best Nonprofits To Work For by the NonProfit Times, an honor demonstrating that we are equally dedicated to building a supportive culture inside the organization anchored in our core value of sisterhood.
While these public accolades and partnerships have been so encouraging, I’ve also never felt more energized by the work our team is doing for and with our community on a daily basis, or more optimistic that the change we want to see — that we must see — is within our grasp.
This year, Girls Who Code also turns ten years old — a birthday that has reminded us that so many of our earliest students are now forging their way into the tech workforce. They have called on us, and we answered in the form of workforce programming to fill critical gaps in the face of lost internships and jobs. The worst pandemic of a century threatened to cost our young women the future they have worked so hard for. And, as CEO, I’m here to say, not on my watch.
So, while today I celebrate my first anniversary, I hope you’ll join Girls Who Code in celebrating our 10th anniversary later this year. We’ve reached over 500,000 students (a number I would not have contemplated when I began my career with Girls Who Code) and will serve even more girls over the next decade. We’re on track to closing the gender gap in entry-level tech jobs by 2030, and can’t wait to see how our students continue to change our communities and our world.