The 2010 Toyota Sienna—a cheerful minivan preferred by families—was once America’s safest car. It had a coveted four-star safety rating, particularly when it came to protecting passengers sitting up front. But then, in 2012, its ratings plummeted.
“Turns out the team who invented the airbag was entirely male,” explains Leah Gilliam, vice president of strategy and innovation at Girls Who Code (GWC). “An all male team designed airbags for male bodies, and they were too big for women.”
Until a government mandate that required the use of female dummies in crash tests, no one tested the efficacy of airbags for women or children. It was a closed loop dominated by white men—a dearth of diversity that continues to plague our technology.
“The scariest part is that the number of women working in the computing workforce is actually declining,” Gilliam continues. “We did some great research with our partner Accenture, and it’s declined from 24% in 1995 to 22% today.”
Gilliam isn’t alone in her concern; a similar sentiment was expressed by scientist Piraye Beim just last week. And it’s why GWC is hellbent on teaching computer science to teenage girls—for free.