Jessica Alba and her company, The Honest Company, have teamed up with Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization that is working to close the gender gap in technology by encouraging girls to work with computers.
“My dreams, in creating this brand and in it coming to life, would not have been possible without technology,” Alba said in an interview with Recode. “It really evened the playing field for me to give everyone access to these safe and healthy products, no matter where you lived. So I just feel like, if we could in any way, shape, or form inspire girls to be entrepreneurs, to participate in the creation of the future, the world’s problems can be solved.”
Alba began the Honest Company after looking for products without toxins during her first pregnancy. The company now operates its own e-commerce website, as well as selling its products at Whole Foods, Nordstrom, Costco, and Target.
The Honest Company hosted one of the Girls Who Code’s first summer immersion programs in Los Angeles. Along with the 20 girls at The Honest Company, there were other girls sponsored by AT&T, Google, and The Saban Foundation. The high school students participated in a seven-week course where they studied programming languages, met with mentors and heard guest lecturers. They also took field trips to Walt Disney Studios, the Gibson Dunn law firm, and The Honest Company’s warehouse.
Brian Lee, chief executive and co-founder of The Honest Company, said he hopes Girls Who Code will inspire more young women to pursue computer science degrees.
“I would give almost anything to hire more and more women, but they just don’t exist in this field,” Lee said. “So we thought, whatever we could do to foster that in these young women, we want to be a part of that.”
Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani talked about her life as the daughter of political refugees who fled violence in Uganda and went to the United States. Though her parents are engineers, she never studied computer science.
“I came from a technical family,” Saujani said. “I was one of the girls who was not interested in that. I didn’t think tech was the way to go.”
Over time, her lack of programming skills became a source of frustration to Saujani, who was also a congressional candidate and former deputy public advocate of New York City. Saujani wished she could harness technology to assist immigrant communities. “I couldn’t exercise my creativity,” she said.
That led to the creation of Girls Who Code in 2012. The organization has grown exponentially, from 20 initial participants to some 10,000 young women in 39 states. Saujani said 90 percent of those who complete the summer program go on to major in computer science or a related field.
“I remember when I built Girls Who Code, I had a bunch of friends who were undocumented talk about their work,” Saujani said to the program’s graduates and their families. “It’s come full circle to see you guys build a game called Un-Bordered. You’re using our experience as daughters of immigrants to make this world a little bit better.”
Alba took the time to pose with each of the graduates as they collected their participation certificates. In an interview before the ceremony began, Alba spoke about the quality of the students’ work, and their maturity.
“Creative people are very different,” Alba said. “They’re all a little bit odd, which is great. I mean, those are my people. I was surprised by how poised and together these girls are, and how intelligent they are.”
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