Girl coders work to break stigma

Hire Tech Minded Ladies (HTML) is an Enactus initiative to give young girls in the community a chance to learn about computer coding. The group meets in Brock Hall every Thursday at 5 p.m. and is led by Project Manager Natasya Panjaitan, management-entrepreneurship junior. Panjaitan wants to “empower them [women] so they are capable of pursuing a male-dominated career.”
The first meeting of the 10-week program was on Feb. 7. Panjaitan said the new session is likely to be more exciting than last year’s because the group has been able to purchase Root Robots, which have three levels of coding available. The girls will be able to make the robot move and even draw.
The group first assembled last year during the winter semester. Eight young girls from the community participated, some of which were daughters of faculty members.
Panjaitan is not working alone on this project. She is accompanied by five other Enactus members and two computer science students that volunteer. Originally the team didn’t have computer science volunteers. Panjaitan said her team had to learn the coding process first and then teach it to the girls.
Every week, participants are put to work focusing on mini projects such as building a calculator. In the past they were able to make an app that was all about health, with each girl working on a different part of the app.
Recruiting new girls is a very important aspect of this initiative. Members of the group spoke to the computer teacher at Collegedale Adventist Middle School (CAMS) and also reached out to the guidance counselor and computer teacher at Ooltewah Middle School. Getting the word out through parents has also been helpful.
The team would like to find a way to connect with more schools in the surrounding area in order to empower more girls.
Panjaitan expressed her interest in taking the HTML project to different schools every other month so girls can get a taste of the program and eventually join the HTML team.
The idea of this project was inspired by American fashion model Karlie Kloss, who teaches a course for young girls called “Kode with Klossy.” This sparked a desire in Panjaitan to bring a similar initiative to Southern.
“There is a stigma of women in the tech industry,” she said.
According to a study conducted by the National Science Foundation (NSF), in 1984, women made up 37 percent of the computer science major at the university level. Today, only 18 percent of the computer science field is female.
Panjaitan hopes HTML continues as an Enactus Project at Southern. She would like this group to be sustainable past her graduation so more girls are reached.
“The cause of HTML is to close the gender gap in technology,” Panjaitan said.
She doesn’t want the fact that the technology industry is male-dominated to stop these girls from pursuing their dreams. She wants them to break that barrier.
When joining the HTML team, there is a fee of $25, which covers any possible field trips, snacks or guest speakers.
More information about the HTML Enactus Legacy Project can be found on Instagram @HTMLSouthern. For inquiries about joining HTML, email or email Natasya directly at

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