HowGirlsCode is a nonprofit organization founded in 2014 with a vision of closing the gender gap in computer science education and careers. Its after-school classes, summer camps and weekend workshops are formulated to inspire and educate elementary and middle school girls in computer science and coding through a mix of interactive lessons and community role models. As Grace, one of its third-grade students, said, “Coding is fun because you get to figure out different ways of figuring things out.”

HowGirlsCode asked the Leadership Howard County (LHC) Community Impact Project (CIP) team to design a way for it to determine the impact of its program on female participation rates in computer science-related courses and activities in Howard County. The team reviewed the practices of similar programs, then recommended metrics and methodologies for HowGirlsCode to adopt.

HowGirlsCode put the team’s student survey recommendations in place during the Fall 2017 class session, forming the basis of a long-term look at its impact. Perhaps the most significant finding was that the structure of the HowGirlsCode’s program has been shown to be highly effective at improving the participation rates of underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

In addition, the CIP team worked with the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) to get data on female participation rates in its computer science courses. In its discussions with HCPSS, the team found that the common stakeholders and purposes of both organizations created a relationship that, though presently existing, would be deepened and enhanced by a formal partnership.

Just six months after the LHC CIP team competed its project, HowGirlsCode and HCPSS became official partners in offering computer science classes at Title I schools. Together, they will be able to increase girls’ participation in computer science by raising awareness of learning opportunities among students, parents and teachers in the Howard County school system.

Lisa Schlossnagle (LP 2014) was the founding executive director of HowGirlsCode in Howard County. She can be reached at [email protected].