A group of 30 participants and their parents gathered in the Warren Hills Regional High School library for the last fall session of Girls Coding with Girls (GCWG) received a surprise when the program’s founder, Adesola Sanusi, came to speak to them.
Now an Associate Product Manager at Google, Sanusi is a Hills alumni (‘14) and Harvard graduate (‘18). She kick-started the after-school program, GCWG, during her senior year of high school.
That year, Sanusi said she remembered taking her first-ever Computer Science course and was struck by the lack of other girls in the classroom.
“I think that something like three out of 20 students were female,” said Sanusi. “I remember my friends saying, ‘Ew, why do you want to take AP Computer Science? Only guys take that.’ There was this assumption that Computer Science and all the related classes at Hills were for guys.”
Even outside the classroom, Sanusi said the lack of representation in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields is striking.
“At any stage of life — whether you look at high school numbers, college numbers, or even in the tech industry women are severely underrepresented. In STEM fields, the opportunities are endless. Technology is in every aspect of our lives – it touches everything – and so it was sad to me to see that the people making those decisions are not made up of enough women,” Sanusi said. “With technology being so dominant, it’s important that representation improves, not just across gender, but across race, too.”
Effecting change began with approaching Computer Science teacher, Daryl Detrick, about starting a program for young girls to learn coding.
“Creating this program showed me the power of being present. You don’t think about how you’re impacting people and how your ideas or things you say can truly inspire people,” said Sanusi. “It’s been amazing for me to realize that this program that I thought about starting on a whim could turn into something so impactful and beautiful. It’s all about realizing your own power and ability to drive change.”
Ten spring and fall sessions of GCWG later, the program has shown roughly 259 girls the power of coding.
“It’s emotional to come back and see this is where I came from and that I’ve come so far,” Sanusi said. “It’s heartwarming to realize that I was actually able to leave a mark. How often do we tell ourselves, ‘I’d like to leave a lasting impression,’ or, ‘I want to do something to give back’? That’s why I’m feeling so emotional and happy to be here.”
Sanusi hopes to continue to be an inspiration and resource for those who need mentorship or advice.
“Seeing someone who’s done what you want to do makes it feel more possible. I think that’s powerful,” said Sanusi. “Oftentimes, we get stuck in what we think things could be, but Technology and Computer Science give you the ability to think beyond that. Being exposed to them at a young age like this broadens your idea of what is possible.”
Sanusi closed by offering advice to girls making their way in the world.
“Two pieces of advice I would give to any girl are to believe in yourself and to realize that there are no bounds to what you can achieve,” Sanusi said. “Growing up, I never thought that I would suddenly be doing all these amazing things for myself and others. Believe in yourself and don’t limit your dreams. If you work hard, they seriously can come true.”