The underrepresentation of minorities in technology has long been a barrier to higher income generation and career advancement. According to a troubling report on equity in technology, minority women constitute less than 10 percent of U.S. women earning undergraduate degrees in computer science. Equally concerning is the significant achievement gap in the percentage of minority males graduating with computer science degrees when compared to the accelerated pace of their white counterparts. Software engineer and inventor Bukola Somide is working to change these disturbing statistics by motivating young people of color to learn more about technology.
To advance computer science education in underserved communities, Somide has developed a range of pioneering products for children. She created a children’s book series entitled “Somi the Computer Scientist: Princess Can Code,” and recently brought the book’s title character to life with a new invention: the Somi doll. The interactive doll uses real-life situations to explain coding terminology to children, and hopefully, to break down educational barriers. As studies show, access to computer science is a common obstacle for Black and Hispanic children who exhibit greater interest in technology but lack the resources to hone those skills.
“With less than three percent of Black women & men in [the] Computer Science industry, representation matters because it gives hope to children who may otherwise think their dreams are impossible due to lack of accessible role models. A child seeing a doll who looks like them, engaged in Computer Science, helps to shatter a mental ceiling by reshaping their perspective,” Somide said.
Indeed, Somide’s achievements as an inventor, software engineer, and founder are sure to plant seeds of inspiration in the minds of hopeful children. To increase outreach to young populations, Somide has undertaken a vigorous campaign to heighten awareness of the Somi doll. In addition to creating the Somi doll, a book series and set of computer science activity workbooks, she has launched a clothing line that empowers children not to be shy about being smart. Her latest venture is a series of confidence-boosting computer science workshops that encourage children to develop problem-solving skills that are key to innovation.
“True innovation comes from reshaping how a child thinks. I believe in laying a solid foundation as a building block to inspire more innovative ideas,” Somide said.
Now, with a legion of parents and children behind her, Somide is laying that foundation, one byte at a time.