Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2015

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I n her work with underserved teens, Emma Cunningham spied a poster that read "Science rules!" It extolled the giants of sci- ence—Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla and other famous men. As a female, "You start to internalize it," she said. A computer sci- entist-turned-coach, she has made it her mission to help women and girls of all ages fi nd their technology comfort zone. The 29-year-old did not set out to be a computer geek. It started when a fellow student at the University of Southern Cal- ifornia mentioned that her study of linguistics reminded him of the language of computer coding. "I love language, but I have a love for logic as well," she said. While working as a programmer for three years at Left Field Labs, a female-run company, she attended tech meet-ups where it sank in just how rare she was. When a circle of "well-meaning guys" at a Java Script meeting bluntly asked her what it was like to be a woman in the fi eld, "It was jarring," she said. Cunningham left her position to focus on outreach, and designed a series of Open Tech Labs for The Women's Center for Creative Work (WCCW). She wanted to create a space "where women and girls feel like they belong." Perhaps mirroring the discordance between women and tech, few showed up for her fi rst lab last month, and she ended up helping WCCW's co-founder, Kate Johnston, update some fea- tures on their website. Undaunted, she scheduled three more workshops for August: another Open Tech Lab (which is free), Hardware Hacking, and Intro to Programming and Web Devel- opment. Cunningham is also bringing tech to underserved communi- ties. During the past school year she taught free robotics classes at Heart of L.A., a respected afterschool program for low-in- come teens, but noticed few were girls. She also brought her expertise to Augustus Hawkins High School in South L.A., where a free summer camp introduced 11th graders to programming. One girl went on to take computer science in college, saying the camp gave her confi dence. "To some extent," Cunningham said, "I left the tech industry myself because I couldn't tell [if my] contribution would even be recognized." In creating space for women and girls in tech, she found her niche and a potential path to recognition for all women in tech. —The Women's Center for Creative Work, 2425 Glover Pl., Los Angeles 90031 By Lydie Raschka A young programmer forges a path for women and girls city of angels SPACE FOR WOMEN IN TECH 10 wholelifetimes.com

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