Published 05/04/18

Professor Janet Prichard works with a student from the Paul Cuffee School, a Maritime Charter School for Providence Youth, at the third annual Fantastic Girltastic Code Company Computer Challenge on April 17 at Bryant University. 

Mentoring Girls in Computer Science with the YWCA Fantastic Girltastic Code Company™

SMITHFIELD, RI – The third annual YWCA Rhode Island Fantastic Girltastic Code Company Computer Challenge held at Bryant University on April 17 was a fantastic success. Eighteen elementary and middle school girls from the Paul Cuffee School, a Maritime Charter School for Providence Youth, participated in the day-long challenge, alongside volunteer mentors—including Bryant faculty, students, and leaders—to learn and experience the field of computer science.

"The faculty and mentors are committed to helping the girls learn and gain the confidence to be successful, and that is rewarding for everyone involved.”

The Fantastic Girltastic Code Company™ is a program of YWCA Rhode Island designed to make computer sciences “relevant, cool, hip and exciting to educate, inspire, and equip girls to pursue careers in computer sciences.” The approach includes code instruction, female role models and mentors, connections to colleges and universities, and access to industry leaders.

Nationally, more than one million computing-related job openings are anticipated by 2024, yet the pool of college graduates with relevant degrees is not keeping pace with that demand. Bryant is working to change that with its Information Systems and Analytics programs in Data Science, Information Systems, and Applied Analytics, preparing innovative leaders and computer scientists for the future.

YWCA Rhode Island works with industry and higher education professionals to plan and implement the event. The leadership and faculty team for the 2018 Computer Challenge includes Kati Machtley, director of Bryant’s Women’s Summit®; Jill Rasmussen, marketing officer, Internet and Mobile at Amica Mutual Insurance Company; Sandra Enos, associate professor of History and Social Sciences; Eileen Kwesiga, associate professor of Management; Janet Prichard, professor of Computer Information Systems; Deborah Perry, president and CEO, YWCA Rhode Island; Lisa O’Rourke, database manager, Amica; Mary Oo, AEM product owner, Amica; and Courtney Pereira; senior business analyst IT, Alex and Ani.

“We feel fortunate and proud to partner with the YWCA, Amica, and a dedicated team of volunteers each year,” says Kati Machtley. “Bryant has recognized the importance of educating women since its founding in 1863, and sharing our resources to give these middle school girls a head start exemplifies our mission. The faculty and mentors are committed to helping the girls learn and gain the confidence to be successful, and that is rewarding for everyone involved.”

In addition to the committee members, faculty and Bryant’s Management 200 students, 25 volunteers from Citizens Bank also served as mentors. Throughout the day, all of the mentors worked with the girls to build a Kano Complete Kit and learn how to code. They also shared their experiences working in the field of computer science and encouraged the girls to consider similar career paths.

The Citizens Bank volunteer team was enthusiastic about using their professional skills to mentor middle-school girls in a technology-focused event. “This is the perfect age to get them interested in STEM careers,” said Mike Krafka, GCP ’15, P ’11, infrastructure manager, vice president, Citizens Bank. “This will enable them to establish careers in sectors that will continue to drive modern economies.”

Calling the event long overdue, Kwesiga said, “I worked many years ago in information technology in manufacturing sector and most of the time I was the only female in the senior experienced teams. It is coming home for me to be part of a group that is hopefully grooming the next female Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of tomorrow.”