A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend SheHacks Boston, a hackathon organized and hosted by a BU student on campus. During this, I had the chance to meet several different women, all amazing in what they do and where they came from. One of these women was Kavya Krishna, who recently co-founded Society of Women Coders, or SOW Coders. SOW Coders is a non-profit organization that aims to reach out to women from different countries, currently Haiti, and teach them how to code, thereby aiding them in pursuing a career in a STEM-related field.
Photo Credit: Society of Women Coders Facebook
Q1: Do you mind telling me a little about yourself?
I was born and brought up in a small patriarchal town of Rajasthan, India. I came to the United States three years ago as an international transfer student to major in Computer Science at UMass Amherst. I graduated last year and now work as a Junior Data Architect at SiriusXM Radio and Co-Founder at SOWCoders in NYC. Apart from coding, I love statistics, classical dance forms, and paper-craft.
Q2: Do you mind giving a bit of a background on Society of Women Coders?
The Society of Women Coders (SOWCoders) is a group led by women working in technology.
Our mission is to encourage young girls from developing nations to opt for careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) by conducting free coding & information camps for them in their country. Part of our mission is to change the existing norms and mindsets that limit women to the usual career paths. We want to help them understand the importance of becoming financially independent and how a career in technology can empower them to do the same and more. Our dream is to reach out to as many women in need around the world as we can.
Q3: What inspired you to start SOW Coders?
I come from a community where women are expected to solely depend on the men of the house for all their financial needs. I understand the importance of financial freedom in building self- respect for women in societies that have been patriarchal for decades. It is all about creating choices (a foreign concept for most women in such societies) so they don’t have to put up with any form of abuse or disrespect.
Careers in technology can help women around the world to become financially independent and increase self-esteem, leading to happier families.
My friend and the other Co-Founder, Faradjine Laurore comes from a similar background in Haiti. We both felt very strongly about the issue and would get into deep conversations often. After discussing the problem, a million times, we decided to do something about it by putting our professional skills (we both code) to their best use. Drawing inspiration from some wonderful organizations (Digital Citizen Fund being the most inspiring one), we decided to work on SOWCoders.
Q4: I noticed that, currently, the only country that you are targeting is Haiti. Do you have plans on expanding to other areas?
Yes, we do have proposals for Projects in Nepal, India, and China. But we are currently only focusing on Project Haiti.
Q5: What sort of barriers or difficulties have you faced so far in your mission?
We have a program to assign Sister Mentors to the girls who participate in our camps. Sister Mentors are women working/contributing to the field of STEM. For Project Haiti, we are looking to get more women coders who can speak in Creole/French to ensure better communication. So far, we have not been able to find many.
Managing our full-time jobs with all the work for SOWCoders has been challenging as well.
Q6: Can someone with little experience in coding help as well?
Absolutely! We welcome passionate volunteers from all backgrounds and experiences.
We encourage our volunteers to share their proposals about how they can contribute to serving the cause.
For volunteering as mentors abroad, we will provide practical training to the selected volunteers.
It is about learning and sharing in the end.
Q7: What do you think has been the most worthwhile part of your experience?
It is inspiring and emotional at the same time to read the numerous emails we receive from women who have faced so much in their lives and want to contribute to help bridge the gender gap and help women in developing nations. Above all, we have realized that Sisterhood is extremely powerful and can be used to change lives for the better.