Miami entrepreneur and Feverish Pops co-owner Felecia Hatcher has seen the power that equipping young girls with computer-programming skills can have.
It was last year in Atlanta, about half way through an event put on by the non-profit Black Girls Code -- a program dedicated to closing the racial and gender gap in STEM fields and which will hold its first Miami event this Saturday at Miami Dade College.
Scheduled as a speaker, Hatcher, accompanied by her author mother, sat down to lunch with a group of students who'd been learning basic HTML and CSS all morning.
"My mom asked one of the girls if she could build a web site," Hatcher recalls.
What happened next took her by surprise.
"This 9 year old started negotiating a deal with my mom to build her website, and telling my mom how she could call her when she gets out of school at 2 p.m.
"So they could discuss the color scheme."
Seeing that sort of confidence and empowerment from a young girl inspired Hatcher, along with Feverish Pops partner Derick Pearson and Executive Director of MDC's Entrepreneurial Education Center H. Leigh Toney, to reach out and bring the tech non-profit to Miami.
Hatcher, a black woman, is no stranger to how lonely STEM fields can be for women of color: she worked in the tech and gaming industries before opening Feverish Pops.
"Women as a whole are disproportionately outnumbered in the tech industry," Hatcher laments. "Then when you talk about girls of color, the numbers are even more upsetting."
It's true. The numbers are abysmal.
According to the National Center for Women in Technology, only 25 percent of the "computing workforce" in 2011 was made up of women, and of that workforce only three percent were black women. (Latinas made up one percent.)
But Miami could help change that. There has been a lot of buzz surrounding a potential Miami tech boom, says Hatcher.
"Especially over the last three years or so, there has been so much growth and a big emphasis placed on innovations, creativity, tech entrepreneurship, and collaboration."
However, much of that conversation, according to Hatcher, is about building pipelines to the Americas.
While there is nothing wrong with that - Hatcher is, after all, one of the founders of Black Tech Miami, a meet-up group to get more African Americans and Caribbean Americans involved in the Miami tech scene - the city shouldn't "neglect fostering the talent in our low-income but high-potential urban areas right here in Miami," she says.
And because Miami's tech scene is in its infancy, making it a more equitable and diverse one, one that reflects the city's rich cultural character, change is not only easier but imperative. Diversity, after all, is critical to innovation.
The groundwork has already begun with organizations like Black Tech Miami and Code Fever -- another tech program co-founded by Hatcher and targeted at the city's youth - among others. Hopefully, it continues with the 56 girls ages 7 to 17 registered to participate in Saturday's Black Girls Code event.
"It's a great time to be a resident of Miami because you can truly lend a hand to helping to shape the ecosystem," Hatcher says. "You can't say the same for Silicon Valley."
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Black Girls CODE Presents-Build a Webpage in a Day this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Miami Dade College's Carrie P. Meek Entrepreneurial Education Center, 6300 NW 7th Avenue, Miami. Registration costs $35 per student. Visit the Eventbrite registration page or blackgirlscode.com.
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