By Amy McKeever
June 24, 2015
girls who code
Credit: Steve Prezant/ Corbis

This summer, Expedia and TripAdvisor are each participating for the first time in national nonprofit Girls Who Code’s annual seven-week immersion program, designed to teach and mentor high school girls in computer science. Girls Who Code, a nonprofit whose mission is to inspire these girls and “close the gender gap in technology,” launched the immersion program in 2012, partnering up with tech companies and universities across the country. This year, nearly 60 different organizations will each host 20 rising junior and senior girls. Expedia will also host an additional 10 female students through its own apprenticeship program.

The Girls Who Code summer immersion program offers the same basic structure and curricula at each location. The nonprofit provides each company with the teaching staff and lesson plans—arranged thematically each week by topics like computing, robotics, web design, and mobile app development—and also selects the students for each class of students. Natalie Bonifede, director of summer immersion for Girls Who Code, says that the idea behind choosing that age range is to catch girls when they are close to making decisions about which studies to pursue in college.

Beyond the classroom study, though, is where each company is able to build an identity for its own summer immersion program. Both Expedia and TripAdvisor will be arranging workshops and demos with female engineers and designers within the company, as well as field trips of their choosing and mentorship opportunities. Each program nationwide culminates in a two-week-long final project, which challenges participants to develop an app, a video game, a website or anything of their choosing. Students pitch those projects at their graduation ceremony at the end of the summer.

In fact, Expedia first became involved with Girls Who Code thanks to a Google summer immersion graduation last year. Director of technology Elena Camerini had a daughter in the program and was so floored by what she saw that she and the rest of the Expedia team decided to get on board. Not wanting to wait until this summer to start mentoring young women in computer science, Expedia actually launched its Expedia Apprenticeship Program in the fall, bringing in 10 local girls who previously participated in Girls Who Code and embedding them in Expedia’s own engineering teams. Another class of 10 apprentices will also start this summer, concurrent with the company’s first iteration of the immersion program.

Expedia will launch its program on June 29 at its headquarters in Bellevue, Washington. Though these are the only two travel tech companies involved with Girls Who Code right now, don’t expect that to last long. Girls Who Code’s partners have grown exponentially through the years with an especially significant jump from 19 to 57 programs within the past year, according to Bonifede. With numbers like that, gender parity in tech may be more attainable than ever.