When Anika Attaluri moved to Hamilton High School, she realized there were not many clubs focused on science, technology, engineering and math—better known as STEM. Upon further investigation, she realized there were only a few girls involved in the STEM-focused clubs that did exist.

So, in her sophomore year, she took matters into her own hands and worked to bring Girls Who Code to Hamilton.

"I wanted to bring the club to Hamilton for girls to have a safe space and explore coding," Attaluri said.

Girls Who Code is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology and reforming the image of a programmer.

Attaluri worked with teacher Teresa Suan to bring the club to the campus, and since then, they have had about 150 participants—not just at Hamilton, but through sessions at local libraries, schools and other community centers.

"I am definitely really glad we brought the club here," Attaluri said. "I'm glad we are able to provide space for girls to express themselves and explore. I saw this statistic that in 1995, only 37% of computer scientists were women, and in 20 years, the percentage of female computer scientists decreased. These numbers were appalling, and I can see the gender gap getting worse, and I am glad to be a part of an organization dedicated to fixing that."

Since the COVID-19 pandemic moved school to a virtual format back in March for Chandler USD students, Attaluri has been working one-on-one with people interested in learning more about coding. She said she hopes to get approval on a proposal she created for the upcoming school year—if the district decides to keep students attending school via virtual programs for an extended period of time—to move the Girls Who Code club to a virtual format as well.

She said it is important to her that the club continues, no matter how students are accessing education.

"I really love that at the end of the session, our last session is kind of this celebratory party where we celebrate the skills we have learned and enjoy spending time together," she said. "Knowing everyone in the room is really proud of their work is great, but they also have a new idea of what a coder is. I think a lot of people have this idea in their head of a coder being a man sitting at a booth and working all alone. We've opened members' eyes to show that they can apply coding to literally any field that they are interested in. I really like seeing that progression."

For more information on Girls Who Code at Hamilton, visit this webpage or email [email protected].