Girls Who Code: building a foundation of women in STEM careers

As she pursued her studies and advanced toward a career in cybersecurity – with the encouragement of her mother – she realized she was among only a few women of color following that path. 

One reason she believes she stuck to it: her participation in her local chapter of Girls Who Code, an organization where women in STEM-related professions mentor young girls in topics like web design, HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Girls Who Code is a strategic partner in Raytheon Technologies’ Connect Up initiative, which, in part, seeks to build a new generation of diverse talent in STEM-related professions.

“My high school didn’t have the formal introduction to computer science that many schools today have,” Gailliard said. “For me, I knew I enjoyed math and science, and I knew about the idea of computer science because of my mom, but it was at Girls Who Code where I really got to build out that passion.” 

Gailliard now works as a digital leadership development program associate at Raytheon Technologies. Her career arc is a case study in why Raytheon Technologies supports STEM education organizations – particularly those that seek greater gender and racial equity in STEM-related professions. 

While women have been making gains in STEM roles at large, the proportion of women in computing actually declined between 1990 and 2019. Women hold only about a quarter of computing roles and 15% of engineering jobs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s part of why Girls Who Code is so valuable, Gailliard said: not only does the program teach the technology, but it does so through the lens and perspective of women who have done the work. 

“You always feel more comfortable when you see somebody who looks like you,” she said. “That’s why joining Girls Who Code was such an important experience for me. I knew that other people that looked like me were going to be pursuing this path with me.”

“You always feel more comfortable when you see somebody who looks like you. That’s why joining Girls Who Code was such an important experience for me.” 

Tyler Gailliard | digital leadership development program associate | Raytheon Technologies

Hands-on experience is critical in cultivating a passion for STEM careers, Gailliard said. For her, working directly on programming exercises and seeing how they reflected her strengths and interests made her sure she wanted to pursue a computer science degree.

Her decision to do so came during a STEM retreat in Syracuse, New York, right before college. The workshops and seminars left an impression, as did the coding exercises and the camaraderie with other girls who were studying technology.

“For a lot of us, myself included, that was a really important weekend and solidified my decision to pursue it before I embarked on my college journey,” she said.

Gailliard is now pursuing a master’s degree in governance and policy in cybersecurity, and she looks forward to the day she can inspire other young women to pursue careers in STEM.

"People need to have that support system to know it's something they can do," she said. "If I'm mentoring someone in computer science or cybersecurity, if I'm encouraging them to do it, I'm helping them out."