By Kelly Stephens
Faith Christian delicately balances being both a sophomore interactive multimedia major at the College by day, and the president of the Girls Who Code Loop at the College by night.
When she’s not working on the Loop, Christian has an extensive workload — she’s a Bonner Scholar and does remote service on the Environmental Sustainability Council; she’s a member of Kappa Theta Pi, and she supports other clubs on campus, from BSU to DIGIT.all to ACM.
As the founder of the Loop at the College, Christian is focused on promoting and fostering a community of diverse women from different majors across campus in order to promote coding and the many benefits that it has for everyone. Girls Who Code is a nonprofit organization that aims to support and increase the number of women in computer science, with clubs and college loops based in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, and India. The college loops of this organization serve as a network for women in college to, “support one another and help each other persist and succeed in the [tech] field,” according to the organization’s website.
“Girls Who Code is for all majors. You don’t have to be a computer science major or an IMM major to be in it,” said Christian.
Her hopes are to ultimately create more awareness around coding and how it can be applicable for students in majors who might not see the use in learning such a skill. She also aims to mitigate some of the fears that students have surrounding coding.
“I find that when people who aren’t in the tech world, when they learn something about coding, they’re like, ‘Oh, that was so easy!’ I want to give that message to everyone,” she said. “Coding isn’t just for a ‘pro-coder.’”
Some students outside of the computer programming world find learning programming languages to be an extremely daunting endeavor. Some are afraid of coding because they see it as too difficult, and have an innate assumption that they’ll fail if they were to try.
The members of the executive board of Girls Who Code, under Christian’s leadership, are hoping to change this mindset.
“We want everyone to not be scared of coding. To not be scared of the idea of learning [how to] code. I feel like it’s for everyone. It’s the future,” Christian said.
Another facet of coding and computer science that Christian would like to bring to light are the struggles that women in computer programming face due to it being a male-dominated industry. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that Black women make up an even smaller population in technology based occupations.
Black and Hispanic American workers in the tech industry make up the smallest portion of that particular workforce. As of 2020, women are still deemed to be underrepresented in the workforce in major tech companies, such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft.
“Even as a woman of color in tech right now, I’m the only Black girl in my classes,” she said. “It’s a lot of things that are still under this white narrative. And it’s like, ‘Ugh we’re still doing this?’”
Christian points out the irony in having to learn solely about white, middle aged men in technology for the coursework in one of her classes, while also trying to promote Girls Who Code as a space that contradicts all of those views and accomplishes what she sees as “changing the narrative.”
“I saw something saying like, ‘To be a girl in tech, you have to act like you know everything.’ Even if you don’t know everything, you still have to say, ‘Oh that’s easy,’” she said. “Because being around males, being around white males, they think that they know everything and that you don’t know anything. So, you kind of have to logically fight them. And that can be so exhausting.”
Within her first year, Christian switched from being a computer science major to an IMM major.
“I switched to IMM because I got that aspect of meshing innovation, art, and coding all together,” she said. “I feel like that is what Girls Who Code promotes. Promoting girls to do things out of the box, and to have fun with coding.”
With this goal in her mind’s eye, Christian set out to found a branch of the Loop on Campus, contacting Racheal Lichtenberg, the program assistant of the IMM department, and Joshua Fishburn, Chair of the IMM department, to help her. Professor Kim Pearson, an associate professor, serves as Christian’s advisor for Girls Who Code.
Since it’s genesis, the Girls Who Code Loop has gained attention from students at the College, and currently has over 200 Instagram followers.
“I definitely think that among the coding world at the college, we’re well known,” Christian said.
But the Loop is facing one problem — attendance. Some students are tired of Zoom meetings and might be unwilling to participate in the organization’s meetings. Other students may not know about the group because they were unable to be a part of this year’s Student Involvement Fair.
Christian tries not to let these things discourage her. Instead, it pushes her even harder to make sure that the Loop succeeds. She has big aspirations for the future, and believes that there will be members from other majors, networking with one another and creating a sisterhood. Christian hopes that one day they’ll work with high schools in the nearby area.
Christian says that the young women who make up the Loop are, “great, motivated, and have done great things.”
A fellow member of the e-board for The Girls Who Code Loop is Hana Memon, a freshman computer science major, who serves as the co-secretary of the organization.
Like Christian, Memon is part of DIGIT.all and ACM. When she came to campus, she too wanted to find a community of girls who code. Memon noticed the Loop Instagram account and the rest is history. She soon applied for a position on the e-board.
When it comes to e-board meetings for the Loop, they have always been lighthearted and fun, even when trying to tackle serious issues that will affect the organization.
Memon is particularly excited to see how the ideas of everyone on the e-board can become a reality. “She’s [Christian] wholeheartedly into the ideas that we have. She’s very passionate about the stuff that she does,” said Memon.
With every suggestion that comes her way, Christian takes it in stride and runs with it. Because the club is so new, after its creation in October of 2020, they are still working to establish their space on campus.
“It’s action packed,” laughed Memon. “I feel like this sounds like a movie, but it’s definitely exciting, and [there’s] a lot of room and opportunity for growth and creativity.”