Mary Barra, the CEO and chairman of General Motors, believes that one way to build up more women leaders in the auto industry is to reach teenage girls who are interested in math and science. To that end, GM is investing in a new partnership with Girls Who Code, a nationwide after-school program that supports girls’ interest in STEM programs. Barra says the £250,000 grant is only the beginning to supporting the non-profit organization that provides free after-school program in schools, universities, and communities centers.
She has called for a host of initiatives that GM participates in to encourage diverse hiring practices and to promote women up through the leadership ranks. But first qualified women have to apply for technical positions.
“But what’s so important with Girls Who Code is to build that pipeline even before they get to high school to take the college programs that create more coding engineers,” Barra said.
If you don’t get the pipeline right to begin, it’s never going to flow through
Between the ages of 13 to 17, the number of girls interested in pursuing study in math and sciences tends to decline, which means their likelihood of pursuing a tech career decreases, Girls who Code founder Reshma Saujani told The Verge an interview.
I met with Barra and Saujani at GM headquarters in Detroit during the North American International Show. “Our goal is to reach 100,000 girls next year and all of them are going to be exposed to the work we’re doing with GM and the amazing women I’ve met at GM, including Mary,” Saujani said.
Photo: General Motors
In order to keep up with the lightning pace of innovation happening in the car industry, more coding talent is needed across the board. “All the statistics say there’s going to be a shortage. We need to have a workforce that matches where the car industry is going,” Barra said. “Tens of millions lines of codes are in a vehicle and it’s only increasing, and there’s an increasing gender gap.
The number of women engineers is not growing.”
Like every technological field, it’s a disheartening and hypocritical fact that women are sorely underrepresented. It’s true at tech companies and it’s true in the car industry. Women hold less than 20 percent of senior level positions at car companies, according to Catalyst, an organization that studies workplace inclusion. It’s a number which is roughly on par with the percentage of women working at tech companies.
And simply hiring women employees is not enough. Under Barra’s leadership, GM has launched several mentoring programs to encourage women to move up the ranks in the company. She gathers female senior executives on a quarterly basis to find new strategies to grow their numbers and also brings male leaders into the mentoring process.
The sheer size of GM’s workforce allows for employees to plan for life changes, like an assignment that requires less travel when they are getting ready to start families or taking care of aging family members.
While car companies have not traditionally appealed to coders, a large legacy company offer advantages to young women entering the tech workforce that a startup does not, Saujani said. “They want to work at places where they are going to be supported. Where there’s a lot of women there and at a company like GM that have been around for a long time,” she said. The buzz about change in the auto industry is also helping to attract the interest of Girls Who Code members. “They’re curious about the innovation and they’re curious to know where it’s moving and where it’s going.”
Photo: General Motors
The promise of social change is another way Girls Who Code appeals to teenage girls. “They are passionate about climate change and the impact that these new generation of cars are going to have on the environment,” Saujani said. “Seventy-four percent of high school girls want to pick a career that’s about changing the world.” The program will have national legs and GM’s 40 manufacturing facilities will serve as ways to connect with students on the local level.
To launch the program a group of about 30 Girls Who Code members from Southeast Michigan visited GM and spent the day meeting with its top female executives including, Barra.
For Barra, the Girls Who Code program has personal resonance. Unlike some car company CEOs, she studied engineering. “My brother and I were the first in our family that went to college. Both of my parents encouraged us in math and science and that encouragement pushed us.”
Coding is logical problem solving
While all may not pursue careers in coding or at GM, Barra said that there are other life lessons to be learned through diligent STEM study– what it means to fail. “So much of a STEM background and coding is logical problem solving and in most of business that’s what we’re doing day and day out.
It gives you the foundation to do just that.”
GM and other car companies stand to benefit by having women making high-level decisions. More women in the US have driver’s licenses than men and women make over 80 percent of household purchase decisions.
If auto industry executives are smart about their strategy for future innovation, they will make a concerted effort to reach its most critical customer base to keep up with the times — women.
- ^ one of 22 women (www.catalyst.org)
- ^ Women hold less than 20 percent (www.catalyst.org)
- ^ women working at tech companies (www.theverge.com)
- ^ one-quarter of jobs (www.catalyst.org)
- ^ More women in the US have driver’s licenses (www.umtri.umich.edu)
- ^ 80 percent of household purchase decisions (www.racked.com)
Some weeks, you really need the pick-me-up of a movie, and for a lot of us, this is one of them. So while it’s not exactly a long-term solution, I finally caught La La Land this week, and it’s one of the few things that’s been able to take my stress level down in a good two months.
I’m not usually a fan of musicals, but there’s just something about La La Land‘s long-take dance sequences, careful choreography of actors and camera, and the wonderful, bright colors peppered throughout every scene that make it a complete joy to watch. Highly recommended on a weekend where we could all use a breather.
Check out 11 trailers from this week below.
Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine looks as action packed as you’d expect, but I certainly didn’t expect it to look quite as personal and emotional as it seems to be hinting at in this trailer. It looks like the film is both a send-off to one generation and an introduction to the next. It’s coming out March 3rd.
Here’s the first full-length trailer for the Power Rangers movie. It’s clear this is going to be a pretty campy movie, the question now is whether the actors will have fun with that campiness or just come off looking silly. This trailer doesn’t exactly leave me feeling encouraged.
It comes out March 24th.
Santa Clarita Diet
I think probably the less you know about this before clicking play, the better. So I will just say that you should definitely click play.
Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is headed to Sundance next week, but it’s already been picked up by Netflix for a March 17th release. It’s a comedy about a couple of teenagers who decide to start robbing trains, which is an excellent conceit as far as I’m concerned.
The cast of Powerless is like a niche, nerdy dream team, but the material they have to work with is… fun and modern but maybe kind of already played out?
Anyway, NBC’s new sitcom is just one giant opportunity to make superhero jokes, and there really ought to be a lot of great material nowadays. Maybe once we’re seeing more than what’s in the pilot, things’ll get a little more interesting. The show starts February 2nd.
Journey To The West 2: Demon Chapter
Kung Fu Hustle director Stephen Chow wrote this absolutely ludicrous looking action-comedy about… I don’t really even know, but visually, it looks pretty incredible. I wish more action movies got this ridiculous.
This is a very unconventional monster movie, and I kind of love it. Anne Hathaway stars. There’s a giant freaky Godzilla / alien thing terrorizing Seoul.
They’re connected in unexpected ways. Just watch like 30 seconds of this trailer to see what it’s all about. The movie comes out April 7th.
Abstract: The Art of Design
This trailer might be a biiiit much, but the series seems like it could be neat. Abstract is an eight-episode series that profiles designers and their work, looking at everything from furniture and shoes to cars and buildings. All episodes premiere February 10th.
City of Tiny Lights
One of the few good things to come out of 2016 was a widespread desire to see Riz Ahmed everywhere.
So here’s his latest: a noirish crime film set in London that has Ahmed playing a detective searching for a missing woman. It comes out April 7th in the UK but doesn’t appear to have a US release date yet.
A Dark Song
The Witch was one of last year’s best horror movies, and this first trailer for A Dark Song reminds me of it quite a bit — it seems to be a horror film based around seriously creepy occult stories rather than sudden scares.
The film is going to be distributed by IFC, but it doesn’t appear to have a release date just yet.
With Sundance next week, a ton of trailers for some excellent looking new films have been coming out. I’m mostly not including them here, since it’ll be a while before most actually get a wide release, but I can’t help but include this one: Kuso is the first film by the musician Flying Lotus, and it looks incredibly strange.
Just watch it.
Today, millions of women across the world are taking part in the Women’s March movement, to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.” The marches are taking place in over 60 countries, spanning every continent — even Antarctica.
As these signs suggest, this march is as much about preserving the environment as it is legal protections for women.
In an interview with the UK’s Independent, organizer Linda Zunas, data analytics and market research professional from Oakland, California, noted that she set up the event after she “spent a month after the election mourning the impending damage to the earth that will be done.”
Since the election of Donald Trump, environmentalists have worried about what his presidency will mean for the health of the planet’s climate, especially given the makeup of his cabinet and campaign promises.