Kim Wilkens is a teacher, 25 year veteran of the technology industry, and the founder of Teen Tech Girls, a non-profit based in Virginia. Follow Kim on twitter @kimxtom and the Teen Tech Girls @TeenTechGirls.
What is the Teen Tech Girls initiative?
Teen Tech Girls is all about empowering girls to imagine new futures for themselves in our technologically advancing world. One of the initiatives we’ve kicked off this year is Day of the Tech Girl, piggybacking on the International Day of the Girl on October 11. Throughout the year, we’ll gather the latest tech girls news and events from collaborators around the world and provide a space for teen girls to share ideas on how to address gender inequity.
Why did you start the Teen Tech Girls initiative?
I’ve been a woman in computer science for 25 years, but it at the 2010 Grace Hopper conference I learned about the decline in women studying CS. When I graduated in 1987, women made up 37% of the CS graduates and now it is less than 20%! That really shocked me and I decided I wanted work to find a solution.
Why should women and girls be interested in technology?
Technology-based innovations like PCs, the world-wide web, social media and smart phones have fundamentally changed the way we work, communicate, govern, educate and so much more. Women need to be an integral part of the process of creating the technology of our future. I think the title of Douglas Rushkoff’s book says it all – Program or Be Programmed.
When did you start coding?
I started coding when my gadget-loving dad brought home a TRS-80 desktop computer. I taught myself BASIC because really there wasn’t much else you could do on a computer that only had 4K of memory and a cassette tape drive for storage. I was really sold on Computer Science when I created my first program using the Assembly Language. Assembly can be a tedious way to program, but the idea that I was in control of the very essence of the computer was so empowering! And that was that, I was converted from an Astroid-playing computer user to a technology creator.
How can people use technology to create change in the world?
When I see kids creating technology, I see them spontaneously problem solving, collaborating, facing failure, experimenting, and creating something new. These are skills that the next generation needs in order to be prepared to be the change they want to see in the world. I’m not expecting everyone will want to be a programmer when they grow up, I just want anyone to know they can. I want to convert technology users into technology creators, collaborators, and activists.
Who inspires you most?
It’s the next generation that inspires me with their creative energy. My guiding lights are the girls and boys I work with in workshops, tech camps and CoderDojos. I am also very thankful for all the women out there who are blazing trails for us to follow.