100 Girls of Code Lands in Arkansas, Aims to Address Gender Gap

An initiative called 100 Girls of Code that aims to close the gender gap that currently exists in STEM-related fields officially has come to Arkansas.

The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub will oversee the Little Rock chapter from its Argenta Innovation Center, it announced Friday.

The program offers free workshops to females ages 10 to 18 to generate interest in computer science among girls, according to a news release. Participants learn computer programming basics by building websites and video games.

"We are very pleased to bring 100 Girls of Code to Arkansas," said Warwick Sabin, executive director of the Hub. "This programming fits perfectly with our ongoing efforts to bring more engaging STEM education to our region, and we are especially interested in increasing access and outreach to underserved communities."

The Hub also partners with Little Rock-based EAST Initiative, an educational model that focuses on high-end technology. On Thursday, EAST unveiled its new global headquarters in west Little Rock.

The 100 Girls program, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, represents the latest effort to make coding education available in Arkansas. The Arkansas Venture Center last year launched its monthly Code It series, interactive workshops with local tech startup founders and coding experts.

In addition, Innovate Arkansas announced in January that it was partnering to bring the prestigious Iron Yard coding school to Little Rock.

Coding and other careers in the STEM fields (science, technology engineering, math) traditionally have been the realm of males, and 100 Girls of Code was created to address that gender gap.

"Through 100 Girls of Code, we are promoting gender equity and opportunity in the STEM career fields and maximizing the potential of young women in Arkansas," he said.

Now in 11 states, the program aims to have at least 100 girls participate each year. The first run in Tennessee had more than 200 participants over its 5-week span.

The initiative's founder, Sammy Lowdermilk, is an Arkansas native.

"With the success we’ve seen in such little time, we hope to continue expanding this program to cities big and small across the country," Lowdermilk said in the release. "We want a chapter in every city, inspiring more young to pursue a career or college path in computer science."