By Martin Kidston

Montana Code Girls joined more than 200 organizations across the country this week in committing to expand after-school programs for girls, helping them gain better access to an education in computer science.

Devin B. Holmes, founder of Montana Code Girls and the Big Sky Code Academy, said the commitment pairs with a new White House effort and President Barack Obama's #CSforAll initiative.

“In his 2016 State of the Union address, President Obama challenged the nation to offer 'every student hands-on computer science and math classes,' and Montana Code Girls is doing it,” said Holmes. “We're excited to be part of the nationwide response to the president’s broad call to action to expand computer science education in K-12 classrooms.”

Earlier this month, Montana Code Girls joined Gov. Steve Bullock in announcing a new statewide effort giving girls and young women the skills needed to pursue a STEM education – a move that's also expected to help break down gender barriers in the workplace.

According to Holmes, a recent study found that girls who take Advanced Placement computer science classes are 10 times more likely to study computer science in college. Encouraging girls to embrace technology at a younger age could go far in shaping the state’s future workforce, and change stubborn social challenges.

Missoula County Public Schools, the Missoula Public Library and the state’s colleges and universities are working to achieve similar goals, Homes said. That effort is unfolding under the #SitWithMeMontana campaign.

“The more we can do to encourage the use of technology, and the more we encourage girls to study that when they go on to higher education, it ultimately results in a better workforce,” Holmes said.

More than 45 girls have registered to participate in the upcoming initiative, though the goal is to enlist 150 participants statewide.

Montana Code Girls learn computer science and mobile app programming skills during the year, and have an opportunity to compete for scholarships as part of the global Technovation Challenge.