How this data scientist plans to help thousands of children after seeing gender stereotyping in tech first-hand

Girls who code

After watching a parent blatantly shut down their daughter’s eager attempt to hack into an electronics experiment, entrepreneur and data science expert Ayesha Khanna knew she had to act.

“I distinctly remember that her mother quickly came, kind of hushed her away, and put her son forward instead,” Singapore-based Khanna tells Tech in Asia.

Khanna is the co-founder of data analytics and artificial intelligence firm ADDO and a partner at TechFin Ventures.

“The girl felt terrible, and, as a mother of both a daughter and son, I felt really bad too. She was very talented and deserved to be there. That really stuck with me,” she says.

Read more: Challenging the stereotypes that work so “blatantly” against women in tech

So she decided to set up 21st Century Girls (21C Girls), a non-profit organisation that has been providing free tech classes to girls since 2014.

The charity provides a range of coding programs including training in robotics to schools and organisations, such as community groups the Muslim Association Mendaki and the Singapore Indian Association.

This year, 21C Girls plans to bring its training to 3000 children living in disadvantage as part of a Google sponsored initiative: Code in the Community.

Google’s investment to roll out the program would likely be over $1 million, Straits Times reports.

“I’m a firm believer that computational thinking is a civil right,” says Khanna.

“It’s as important as reading, writing, and speaking.”

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Dinushi Dias is a journalist at StartupSmart and multimedia content producer. When she’s out of the office, she works on social projects with her We Love It Productions family and buddying filmmakers.