Karlie Kloss may be a gorgeous model, but she also believes computer science can empower women to pursue their dreams. It’s time for everyone to follow Karlie Kloss’ lead and treat computer science and its peripherals as a tool for self-empowerment instead of a quick-fix for underemployment.
To see her mission through, Karlie Kloss has collaborated with the Flatiron School to provide young girls and adult women alike with the opportunity to learn more about code, what it is, and how to do it. Her new initiative, Kode With Klossy marks the first time a supermodel champions women in tech with a dedicated platform.
None [of the female-led programs] have had a supermodel mascot on board to bust stereotypes.
A few other key features make Kode With Karlie different from the other female-led organizations – namely, the application process. While many admissions processes have limited deadlines and are exceedingly time-consuming, Kloss believes they’re more discouraging than inviting. Secondly, upon completing the program curriculum, Kode With Klossy Career Scholars will receive the opportunity to apply for paid “apprenticeships and fellowships with program partners, which include companies like WeWork, CondéNast, New York Magazine, Vice and more.” Furthermore, you can learn the basics for free. If you do this, you have a better chance of getting that career scholarship.
For many women, the only motivation to pursue computer science, or tech in general, was the money Financial security was the marketing approach the bootcamps took, and this is the one reason many want to learn how to code, as a software engineer's starting salary is better than most management salaries at other jobs.
“Whatever the dreams or goals of our students are, whether it’s fashion or sports, we’re going to teach them skills they can apply anywhere.”
- Karlie Kloss
The problem is, many have taken an entire industry – an entire innovative and disruptive field – and diminished it into a moneymaker. Putting aside how offensive this may be to those who love being software engineers, it’s no wonder that only 18% of women graduate with computer science degrees.
And then Karlie Kloss came along and demystified what it means to “code.” “Everybody touches technology every single day, and it has transformed so many industries," says Kloss. "But yet, so few people really know even what coding is, and much less how to do it." Kloss turned “learning to code” into an accessible concept; she let her fans know that, behind everything they love, there are “lines of code.” In fact, she encourages her followers to use social media to “learn how to write lines of code and to build the next Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook yourself.”
Kloss had literally taken her own advice to get to where she is; when she found out that her friend, Kevin Systrom – the CEO and Co-Founder of Instagram – had built the app himself, she realized she could eventually do it, too. All she needed to do was learn how.
Karlie Kloss with students at Kode With Karlie camp. Photo Credit: Flatiron School
In general, knowing how to program anything is a desirable skill that can get you far in life, especially as a woman. In the first iteration of Kode with Klossy, a free "coding" summer camp for girls between 13 and 18 years old, Kloss noticed that, “while each of the students learned the same technical skill set, the diversity of these projects showed them how code can be applied to whatever industry they choose to pursue.“ By continuing her own studies, Kloss says she is doing her part in being a voice for women who are interested in “learning to code.” She’s not telling them that it’s what will make them money, but rather empowering them to choose for themselves.
Here, five inspiring insights from Karlie Kloss on learning to code.1. "I found [programming] really empowering, and I wanted to share that learning with other girls, so I started a scholarship program to teach other girls to learn how to code.”
2. "The first few days are really challenging and then it all kind of starts to click, and then you all of a sudden are able to build things and write lines of code and it’s all making sense. It’s really an exciting and empowering feeling, and it’s really cool to watch these young women do it. It kind of totally changes their thought of what they think they’re capable of within this space.”
3. "If you can learn how to code, or if nothing else understand how things are built and understand the back end of technology even at a high level, it can be applied to any industry that you’re interested in.”
4. "No matter what industry you want to go into, what job you dream of having, with this skill set you really can create and bring more to the table in any industry. You don’t have to just learn this skill set to get a job at a tech startup. You can apply this thinking, apply this skill set to anything you want to do in life.”
5. "I think it’s crucial that young women learn to code as early as possible to ensure that we have a voice in what the world looks like.”
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.