PhD in Teaching and Learning

Black and white photo of Tarika Barrett

Enabling Girls to Get With the Programming

By David Hollander
Portrait by Robert Nethery

“Knowledge is power” isn’t just a feel-good phrase to Tarika Barrett. Her Jamaican grandmother, who was forced to leave school in the sixth grade, taught her kids that education transforms lives. Upon graduating from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, Barrett landed at the NYC Department of Education. She worked tenaciously to place STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) coursework within reach of low-income students of color.
    “I want to change the way STEM education looks,” Barrett says, which explains her historic appointment as the first Black woman CEO of Girls Who Code—a nonprofit striving to shrink the gender gap in tech. Barrett took the reins in 2021, when the pandemic was exposing stark inequities for underserved students. She quickly reimagined the organization’s structure: she introduced hybrid classes, recruited new student populations, and spearheaded efforts to connect learners and employers in virtual spaces.
    The results have been extraordinary. Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion Program saw a 50 percent increase, and the organization has now served approximately 500,000 students. Hybrid class models have expanded geographic diversity, and hiring summits have led to thousands of internships and jobs—many for girls from historically underrepresented groups. And Barrett, who was named one of Crain’s 50 Most Powerful Women in New York, says the organization she oversees is just getting started. “The real objective,” she says, “is to disrupt the status quo.”



The nonprofit Girls Who Code is just getting started, according to Barrett. “The real objective is to disrupt the status quo.”