STEM Mentor: The amazing woman behind Coders of Colour

Girls in STEM Mentor jan Choudhury

Tolúlọpẹ́ Ògúnrẹ̀mý is the Founder of the award-winning organisation Coders of Colour. It’s an organisation with the aim of getting under-represented people of colour into the technology industry and providing an opportunity for them to experiment with coding in a safe and accessible space.

Tolúlọpẹ́ set up the organisation to “Empower and enable young underrepresented people of colour to pursue a career in tech”. All attendees should leave with the ability to do something new and it also offers further support to attendees.

Coders of Colour vs the Digital Divide

Coders of Colour understands that the need for devices and broadband will not stop any time soon. The organisation reaches to companies with surplus laptops and runs a Crowdfunder to ensure those in need get access to these vital resources.

And that’s not all, she is also an advocate for providing STEM education for people in under-represented backgrounds. Part of that is working on Project Hezi to provide learning resource to schools in some of the poorest areas of Nigeria. Her work stretches to supporting black people in France, where she is organising Akwaaba Fest.

We asked her about the opportunites for Girls in STEM.

Why do we need an effort for girls in STEM?
From an early age, society subliminally – then eventually, overtly – steers girls away from STEM and information technology accounts for the lowest figures. Globally, women tally only 16% of managers in the information technology industry and that gender gap continues in the C-suite, where women are only 3% of CEOs and 20% of CFOs (Source: Catalyst). So although we now have more young women starting careers in STEM roles, we need to ensure those women are heard, respected and encouraged to pursue STEM in all types of roles – from entry-level to C-Suite.

What you wished you knew looking back to GCSE stage?

As someone that attended an all girls’ school, I was lucky enough to be in Maths and Physics classes that were completely female. Looking back at my GCSE time, I would reiterate how Maths and Physics can show up in subjects you least expect them to, so never let anyone, teacher or otherwise steer you away from subjects you’re interested in. For students preparing for GCSEs at the moment, I would encourage you to reach for the stars, in the Astrophysics context or otherwise. No matter what you have studied or have not been able to study, there will always be a path unique to your circumstances that leads to your dreams. Don’t let anything other than a change in interest affect your career goals.

What you wish for going forward

Going forward, I would love to see teachers and schools trained in the appropriate ways to handle students of different genders. Studies have shown that teacher-student interaction is different between genders and I think this is integral to change. We all know that “you can’t be what you can’t see”. Highlighting role models is another key step to closing the gender gap. There are many ways to do so, from screening Hidden Figures to supporting the work Untapped Innovation is doing to support young girls, to working with the Stemettes. There is no shortage of ways to help.

To support Tolúlọpẹ́’s Coders of Colour and watch how she continues to inspire, follow the company page on LinkedIn.

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Written by Tolúlọpẹ́ Ògúnrẹ̀mý