The next generation of computer scientists

Adobe is reaching young girls with a unique message: Coding is creative.

In 2012, Reshma Saujani noticed something troubling: Of the millions of computer science jobs available in the U.S., only a tiny fraction would be filled by women.

“I’m not an engineer or a coder, but I’m a feminist,” Reshma says. “And I wanted to do something about it.”

She started “Girls Who Code“, an organization that puts classrooms in the middle of the country’s biggest tech companies and recruits working professionals to teach girls from sixth to twelfth grades the real-world skills they’ll need to become technical change makers tomorrow.

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Girls Who Code caught the attention of Charley L., Adobe’s manager of corporate responsibility, who had the same epiphany as Reshma: Too few young women were pursuing careers in computer science. Charley had an extra motivation, though: As an employee of Adobe, he knew that too few girls majoring in computer science today would mean too few women building great tools at Adobe tomorrow—and products would suffer. The future of technological advancement would suffer.

“Healthy products are made by an employee population that is representative of the public,” Charley says. “But today, the computer science field is far from representative.”

Photo by Adobe employee Dan W.

Charley also realized that Adobe already supported educational programs that teach youth to use Adobe creative software—such as the world-renowned Adobe Youth Voices—but that wasn’t enough. The Foundation wanted to support programs that round out a representation of the Adobe population and its customers. That would have to include computer science.

“We felt that we could offer a different perspective than other major tech company,” Charley says. “We’re a company known for creativity, and our perspective is that coding is creative. What you can do with coding is even more creative.”

So the Adobe Foundation started out supporting the Girls Who Code after-school computer clubs program. The second year, the Foundation supported a seven-week Girls Who Code immersion program at Adobe headquarters. This year, the Foundation is funding three immersion programs at Adobe offices in San Jose, San Francisco, and Seattle.

The ability to meet female engineers working in the field—perhaps even the people who helped build software the girls use every day—is an invaluable benefit of working with Adobe, Reshma says.


“You can’t solve this problem without role models and mentorship, and that means having a program onsite where girls can see what it’s like to be a computer scientist,” Reshma says. “We also need the private sector to get behind this initiative, and Adobe is a great example of a company that has done that, year after year.”

Heather D., a software development manager for Acrobat & Reader Engineering at Adobe, served as a guest speaker and mentor for Girls Who Code. She joined Adobe in 2001 after graduating university and wanted to volunteer to show young women that computer science is an option for them.

“For most of my time here, the engineering director I’ve reported to has been a woman, which is inspiring, and I’ve certainly looked up to her as a mentor,” Heather says.  “Women bring a unique point of view to the table, and I think Adobe recognizes that. I hope that my work with Girls Who Code will encourage more women to join the field of technology and help us to develop even better products.”