TODAY

TODAY   |  December 27, 2013

Women coders break new ground, and stereotypes

More and more women are entering the tech world, looking to make their marks in the computer programming field and find long-lasting careers. NBC special anchor Maria Shriver reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> savannah had to leave a bit early this morning but recently she had the chance to sit down with maria shriver to talk about an issue that will impact thousands of women .

>> well, think you don't have it in you to launch the space shuttle or build a video game? think again. maria shriver is here with a story of a great group of women . good morning.

>> good morning, savannah, thank you. women out number men on college campuses and many are primary breadwinners at home but when it comes to the tech world, the numbers aren't as encouraging. with that in mind, a small but growing group are encouraging women and girls to change that.

>> i believe that computers are actually the next best resource we have next to the human mind . they make us really powerful.

>> reporter: it's estimated that by the year 2020 there will be 1. 4 million software jobs available in the united states . if the numbers are right, only 20% of those jobs are expected to be filled with women making up less than half of that group.

>> there's sort of this perception and i would say it's definitely a misperception that if you like working with machines or you like working with computers you couldn't possibly like people. what i found in my professional career is the people that like people and think about human problems first actually make the best computer programmers .

>> reporter: she is a computer programmer with two businesses under her belt, each that motivates others, especially women , to learn about software development .

>> i'm a 45-year-old woman. my kids are going out of the house. i have to reinvent myself. why should i think coding?

>> well, one big reason would be just the financial flexibility you get from having computer skills or having programming skills and another great thing about programming is that you can really do it from anywhere. so let's reset.

>> oh my god. i coded.

>> yes.

>> so you're actually saying that this could be a really good job for women who also need to parent, workout of the home. and it's actually something that you can make a living at and a good living at?

>> absolutely.

>> reporter: only nine states recognize a computer science class toward high school graduation. to combat the lack of in school education, extracurricular programs are popping up targeting teens and tweens specifically.

>> we still live in a culture that pushes young girls into make up and, you know, other things instead of this.

>> reporter: she started girls who code in 2011 . a nonprofit that aims to educate and inspire high school girls about the computing world. it's goal, teach 1 million girls to code by 2020 .

>> you need to understand technology. you have to have the skill set.

>> reporter: for 8 weeks 160 high school girls across 8 classrooms are immersed in all things digital. working out of classrooms within companies like intel. these girls are exposed to a world that otherwise seems out of reach. for the teens that workout of the twitter offices, a chance to present ideas to facebook.

>> so anyone that has an interest in a class or a subject would be able to learn.

>> this is a completely awesome idea.

>> reporter: opportunities most engineers dream of.

>> the biggest thing i learned so far from this program is to have confidence.

>> i believe it's really important to fight the stereo stereotypes and show that girls are just as good.

>> those girls are our ambassadors. they have already started teaching young girls in their family. in their churches, in their communities how to computer program .

>> i would encourage everyone to learn how to code because it does change the way you think in a really great way and it also just helps you feel empowered.

>> well, feeling empowered is something i believe every woman and man should feel and as one of the young girls said in there, she said it makes me feel self-confident. that's something that helps women all the way through life.

>> even you were smiling when you coded.

>> it's hard, though. i'm not that savvy. these girls are so inspiring. you can do it. you just have to try.

>> it's incredibly inspirational. next month we get the next shriver report which i think of the state of the union for women . what can we look forward to?

>> thank you. it's really interesting but we'll learn that one in three working women in this country are financially insecure and struggling and they need to begin to invest in themselves first and foremost because they will be providers and not provided for in the near future.

>> maria shriver and savannah with a very cool program. coming