To a room full of 17 young girls, Shelly Ahlers, a senior vice president at ACI Worldwide, talked about her experiences as a woman in a technological career.
She discussed how her computer science experience landed her a job at ACI right out of college. In the more than 30 years since, her role has taken her all over the world, she said.
“I truly believe anything is possible for girls and women in technology,” Ahlers told the middle schoolers who spent Saturday at the fourth ACI Coding for Girls Camp.
In the mid-1980s, 37 percent of computer science majors were women; by 2012 that had dropped to 18 percent, according to a study that Google released in 2014.
Sampy Gajre, a senior recruiter for ACI Worldwide, said she hopes that coding camps can start to change those numbers by inspiring young girls to see themselves as coders and future technological leaders.
“We hope to catch them early on, before they build any stereotypes about (science, technology, engineering and math-related) fields,” Gajre said. “Our goal is to impact as many young minds as possible and introduce them to these professions and to coding.”
The students at Saturday’s camp came from middle schools across and outside Omaha.
She quickly caught on to a module that taught block coding skills through a game involving a pixelated bird. Based on how she arranged the code, she could change how fast the bird flew and what noises the game made.
Emilee Fleming, a 12-year-old from Morton Magnet Middle School, said learning coding through interactive games keeps the lessons fun.
“It’s just cool to design stuff how you want it,” she said. “I just like learning how to do something new and then see it work.”
Yukina said she’s thinking about pursuing more coding opportunities .
“My teacher tells us that in the future, jobs are going to need people who know coding,” she said. “And I don’t want all those jobs going to boys.”