Girls Who Code Club Aims to Empower Female and Non-Binary Students in STEM

By Maddie Johnson, Senior Writer

Girls Who Code (GWC) is an organization that focuses on closing the gender gap in STEM related fields. The program has influenced many colleges in the U.S. to start their own Girls Who Code club for students to participate in. Now, a GWC club exists at a college where engineering is not only popular, but male-dominated.

GWC at Manhattan College just started this year, in Jan. 2022, and was founded by the club’s current president Sofia Creanza. A junior digital arts major, Creanza began to acknowledge the underepresentation of women and non-binary students in STEM fields at Manhattan College. So, Creanza was eager to find a way to spread awareness and break stereotypes surrounding what a programmer looks like. As a result, she found out about GWC.

“Girls Who Code is really amazing because they’re really open to giving anybody who wants to pursue something the space and resources to do it,” Creanza said. “On their website you can apply to be a Girls Who Code Loop president  … I really love Girls Who Code as an organization. I saw that they had an opportunity, so I applied and now I’m just trying to round up as many people as I can to make this club successful and hopefully affiliated with Manhattan College by the end of this semester.”

Although fairly new, Creanza shared that the club is gradually figuring out what events are best and that already she and other members have come up with great activities for participants to engage in. 

“So obviously we haven’t done anything in the past because we’re super new, but we’re also looking to have some workshops, study hours and some Lo-Fi meetings that aren’t necessarily for coding or for networking, but just more for people to hang out. So, we’re trying to have a wide range of events and collaborate with as many other college clubs as possible.”

One of the masthead members of the club is sophomore Madison Baydian, a computer science major. As the secretary, Baydian is still in the process of finding what activities will attract more members. But, as the club’s first major events are coming up this March, Baydian explained she is excited since both events involve collaborations with major organizations inside and outside the college. 

“We have an event with The Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center on March 9,” Baydian said. “We’re going to discuss navigating sticky situations with coworkers, how to do a good job search and other stuff regarding the professional world. We also have another event with a speaker from the Google programming team and she’s going to discuss how she got into programming, getting internships and what it’s like to be on a team for Google and then she’ll have a Q&A at the end.”  

Rachel Cirelli, co-Director for the Women and Gender Center, helped GWC organize one of their first big events with LWGRC and shared how passionate she was about being part of an event with students motivated to encourage women in STEM.

“Meeting with Sofia was really important and I think we wanted to do a first event for her club because I feel like it’s very new,” Cirelli said. “So really I was thinking, ‘How can I support that club? How can I support them in both my role in the crew office, but also in my role at the Women’s Center?’” 

Cirelli, like the club members, is pleased GWC is now available on campus and hopes the program will not only make female and LGBTQ students more comfortable studying STEM, but will prepare them well for the competitive job market for science and technology.

“So we know STEM is the future and we know women in STEM is a huge area and we know people in the LGBTQ community in STEM, they’re going to need even that extra support,” she said. “So, knowing the future of STEM and knowing that, I think it’s important for clubs like this to kind of come up and make sure that those individuals are more than prepared to thrive in the job market.”

As a female studying computer sicence, Baydian stresses that the club is an asset to the Manhattan College community because it can make women and non-binary students feel more comfortable working in a field that’s more exceptive of a male-dominated educational setting.

“As a woman in STEM, I know firsthand that sometimes it’s scary to be one of the only girls in the class,” Baydian said. “So, I think it’s important to create a space for girls to just talk about something they’re interested in without the input of boys. It’s important to create a safe space for girls to learn and be interested in coding and STEM and just have an environment without toxic masculinity.” 

Like Baydian, Creanza also believes GWC on Manhattan College campus can provide a safe space for students to talk about the industry without feeling intimidated by most students being male. However, Creanza wants others to understand that club members don’t necessarily have to pertain to girls, LGBTQ students and those who are studying STEM.

“We are a very inclusive organization and we want all people to feel safe in our meetings and events,” Creanza said.

“So, I want to reiterate that we’re not just focused on coding and we support all people in their ambitions and their goals. For example, if you’re an English major and you want to break into the business sector as an executive, we’re supportive of that, if you are an art major and you want to do things with technology, we are in full support of that. We are open to all people and all experiences and they should definitely come and join because we have a lot to offer and a lot of learning opportunities that can be applicable when you go to the workforce.”