Portraits of Leadership

Girls Who Code Confronts COVID-19

Hyperakt’s new interview series hands the mic to nonprofit and cultural leaders around the nation as they guide their organizations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today we’re talking with Deborah Singer, Chief Marketing Officer of Girls Who Code. The international non-profit is on a mission to close the gender gap in technology and to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.

From your vantage point, what stories are not being told about the impact of the Coronavirus?

It’s absolutely crucial that we keep telling the stories of the healthcare professionals, grocers, truckers and countless others who are out there saving lives and delivering essential services.

At the same time, we need to remember to shine a light on the impact this pandemic is having on our kids. They are facing disruption to their learning, their social lives, their development, their mental and — in some cases — physical health.

I’m particularly worried about our most disadvantaged kids, as we’ve seen that inequality gets worse in times of crisis.

That includes our students who live below the poverty line, who don’t have a quiet or safe space to continue their learning virtually, and who rely on their school and community center for access to meals and other basic services.

Girls Who Code is most focused on how we can continue to serve these students. Our entire global community is being impacted by this pandemic, and we can’t afford to leave anyone behind.

How have you needed to change how your staff works or the way you deliver services in order to meet the new reality?

We, like many other nonprofits, are facing a lot of uncertainty right now — for our programs, our funding, our girls. But our leadership team truly believes that incredible innovation can come from our most trying moments.

We’re taking this time to think critically about how to best serve our community. To that end, we just launched weekly Girls Who Code at Home programming — free online and offline coding activities for anyone who wants to access them.

These activities are meant to support parents and educators and to inspire our girls. Hundreds of thousands of people have already accessed these resources, and we are eager to keep doing what we can to support families.

What gives you hope in this moment?

Our girls. In times of crisis, women and girls are known to step up and innovate. We’ve seen it throughout history.

Joan Clarke helped decode enemy documents during World War II. Flossie Wong-Staal, in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, cloned HIV and genetically mapped the virus. Katherine Johnson made crucial calculations so that Project Mercury could land safely.

And our girls are no different. They’re resilient, they’re change makers, and they’re going to come out of this crisis with more empathy and more bravery.

Get to know Girls Who Code at GirlsWhoCode.Com and on Twitter, and read more interviews in the Portraits of Leadership series.

Hyperakt is a purpose-driven design and innovation studio that elevates human dignity and ignites curiosity. We believe in design’s power to build a future filled with courage, optimism, and honesty.

Are you a leader in the nonprofit, cultural, or design space? Want to share your perspective on confronting COVID-19? Please fill out this Google Form.

Hyperakt crafts transformative brands and digital storytelling experiences for clear-eyed champions of social justice and creativity.