As the founder of iamtheCODE, Lady Mariéme Jamme is on a mission to close the global education gap and build a generation of 1 million women and girl coders by 2030. Our staff spoke with her about how 2020’s extraordinary events will impact society and iamtheCODE’s mission moving forward.
What permanent, lasting changes will stem from the extraordinary events of 2020?
We need this right now in our society. We need to change the way we’ve been living before the pandemic.
My hope is that people will wake up. They will wake up and do something different. And if that happens, I think we’ll have a wonderful upcoming decade, where more young girls and more young boys who need our help will learn from this and make a difference.
How do you believe iamtheCODE will help shape the next decade?
The next decade will be wonderful for a young girl who’s now 11 years old, who’s going to be 21 in 2030. She’ll be able to join the global workforce. She’ll know how to code.
Our mission at iamtheCODE is to give this young girl all the skills, infrastructure and connectivity she needs. She has partners, businesses like VMware, who has the most amazing, exciting software in the world.
I just want a young girl to feel when she’s 19, “It doesn’t matter who I am. I can apply to work at VMware or anywhere else I want to work. I will not be discriminated against because of my color. I’m not going to be discriminated against because of my culture or my religion or because of who I am. I’ll be accepted. I’ll be in a room with different people coding, looking into AI, and looking into solutions that will accelerate humanity.”
How will the next generation help shape our future?
They’re shaping our future already. They’re definitely not waiting on us, anymore. The systemic levels of poverty, racism and discrimination we’re seeing right now, young people don’t want to see this 10 years from now. They’re learning. They’re engaging more. They’re voting. They’re making sure people in government who are not serving them can be voted out. We can’t waste time, anymore.
What’s your advice for young coders right now?
Take this opportunity to reskill yourself. Look exactly into what you want to do for the next 10 years. We have so much content, so many people across the world are sharing their skills, their vision. And try to be mentored by somebody who has been there.
Why is the conversation around diversity and inclusion so relevant today?
We all talk about diversity, but if you dig down into the word “diversity,” we’ve been very comfortable with the word. But what we’re still not comfortable with is including people. How do we include marginalized communities, people who are different from us?
Diversity, to me, is tolerating people. When you tolerate people, it doesn’t work. When you include people, give them a seat at the table and listen to them, you connect with them. There’s reciprocity. There’s no superiority or inferiority.
It’s the power of inclusion: humanity and kindness. Where we can feel comfortable in allowing people who are different from us, who are louder than us or who have a different opinion from us to sit in the room and express themselves.
That, for me, is more powerful than diversity.
Learn more about Lady Mariéme’s work at iamtheCODE.org.
This conversation was edited for space and clarity.