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The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and its philanthropic arm, the ESA Foundation, are supporting Black Girls Code with $1 million for education and mentoring programs for girls and young women interested in technology.
The initiative boosts Black Girls Code’s mission of teaching coding and technology skills to 1 million girls and young women by 2040. And it helps the ESA recruit more diverse people to learn how to make games and learn science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM).
“We’re really excited about is this is going to expand a lot of opportunities for learning more and helping each of their chapters that we’re working with,” said ESA CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis in an interview with GamesBeat. “And our members are excited because they’re located in so many different cities across the country that allow many of our members and others to participate as mentors.”
While women have made some strides in tech and games, there is more work to be done. The National Girls Collaborative Project said women only earn 18% of computer science bachelor’s degrees in the U.S. Although women make up 47% of all employed adults in the U.S., they hold only 25% of computing roles, according to the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). And, of the 25% of women working in tech, black and Hispanic women accounted for just 3% and 1%, respectively.
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The ESA Foundation, which has awarded more than 400 college scholarships since 2007, will collaborate with Black Girls Code chapters across several U.S. cities, including: Dallas; Houston; Los Angeles; New York; Raleigh, N.C.; San Francisco; and Washington, D.C. The multi-year commitment includes direct financial support as well as investments in volunteer time and other industry resources to support curricula, workshops and mentorships with many of the world’s most recognizable brands.
ESA Foundation executive director Anastasia Staten said in an interview that the effort this summer won’t involve in-person programs, but there will be a lot of online education.
“We’re going to be able to roll it out to seven chapters, and then all the girls across all the chapters virtually who want to participate in workshops and studio tours,” Staten said. “It’s a really great organization.”
Founder Kimberly Bryant started Black Girls Code in 2011 in Oakland, California, to get her daughter and other girls excited about programming. Her daughter wanted to understand how video games are made. Now her daughter is going to college, and Black Girls Code now operates in 15 cities across the country and in South Africa. It introduces computer programming and technology to girls ages 7-to-17 from underrepresented communities by providing workshops, hackathons, and after-school programs. The group has reached more than 20,000 girls to date.
“When I was younger, and participated in activities involving games and technology, I was the only person who looked like me in the room,” said Sloane Miller, an ESA Foundation scholar and North Carolina A&T State University student who participated in Black Girls Code programs for three years, in a statement. “Black Girls Code taught me I could combine my love of video games with my passion for tech and develop skills I can use in college and my career.”
The ESA’s goal is to help Black Girls Code fund an interactive education and mentoring program in seven U.S. cities. The goal is to help 7,000 to 10,000 girls of color in underserved communities to prepare for STEAM careers in the video game and tech industries. Game companies will be a big part of the effort in providing funding, resources, and hands-on mentorship.
“One of the things that we’re really focusing on is building infrastructure, with Black Girls Code, that includes beginning to create curricula for workshops, setting up some formal mentorship opportunities, and agreements with ESA member companies,” Staten said. “We can also create meaningful experiences for so many professionals out there that want to be mentors and volunteers, to help these young women find their path, celebrate their own success stories, as they’re developing skills around with technology, and hopefully, giving an introduction to video game industry.”
I asked Pierre-Louis, who spoke at our recent metaverse event on the subject of diversity and the metaverse, about the digital Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) plans, but he wasn’t ready to talk about it. We’ll get him to talk about it the next time.
“We were excited about partnering with them and with our foundation because of the work that Anastasia had done in creating scholarship opportunities for minorities and women,” Pierre-Louis said. “We can provide them with opportunities to learn about our industry, learn about the skills and showcase our industries to them but also provide opportunities for our industry to partner with them as mentors, guest speakers and mentors. So we’re really excited about helping propel what they do.”
The ESA also just announced support for a fellowship with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation in Washington, D.C.
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