Years ago, many of us longed for a world where technology would open doors to the magical and mystical. Now, such technology is within reach.
Virtual and augmented realities (AR) are becoming more of a common sight. It’s not necessarily a question of “if;” it’s more of a “when and where” at this point.
Take the example of the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival 2022.
The scenario of the future
In addition to being one of the most famous music festivals in North America, Coachella became a space of technological wonder this year thanks to a visually creative performance by Grammy-winning artist Doja Cat.
“Girls Who Code” chose five young women of diverse backgrounds — many of who were first-time AR creators — to bring to life the enhanced and technologically-savvy performance. These tech-forward women were given the liberty to create a new Spark AR effect.
Thus, this year’s Coachella was referred to as “Coachellaverse” by many.
“We’re opening the door for them, and for these future young girls at home, many of [which] don’t know this is an option. [They might] even feel comfortable pursuing it if they know that it’s an option,” says Lianne Tokey, a Meta spokesperson who is also a designer and illustrator by trade.
“Now we’re flipping the script a bit and saying, ‘you don’t have just to be the participant; you can be the creator.”
“We want more girls and young women to know that a career in tech doesn’t have to be basic. It can actually be a fun and creative way to nurture your passions. This was an exciting way to express that,” Dr. Tarika, the Jamaican-American CEO of “Girls Who Code.”
A new way to democratize opportunities
Meta and “Girls Who Code” trained the young creators for several weeks on the process of effect development. As a result, the women were able to bring an AR experience to fruition at Coachella.
As explained by Dr. Tarika, “Girls Who Code” has been about more than teaching girls to code. They’ve also grounded their work in knowing that the students most need to pursue a career in STEM are often the ones most lacking in resources, community, and care.
“Our mission is to close the gender gap in tech, and we believe that doing so will improve the tech industry, improve society, and provide marginalized groups the skills they need to succeed.”
And that’s where Meta comes in.
“What we are doing is encouraging them because the wonderful thing about Meta is that we do have a great learning resource,” Tokey added.
— Girls Who Code (@GirlsWhoCode) December 3, 2021
“I thought to myself, ‘I’ll put in the hours after work to teach these girls how to do this because that’s what I do anyway. And I’d be more than happy to step in and be the mentor to them to build what will be now an ongoing program.”
Tokey met with each cohort member individually, rather than in group sessions because she understood the value of careful mentoring tailored to each of the young creators. As she explained, both parties exchanged ideas, asked questions, and shared their experiences.
“They all seem to really want it to be amazing. They’re going to pay it forward and be the mentors to the [following cohort] next year.”
The effects they created provided an interactive way for people to connect with Doja Cat. In a sense, it allowed her fans to be “up close and personal” to her performance while giving them the chance to feel physically at the festival without having to imagine much.
When the goal is more women in STEM
Don’t worry if you missed this out-of-this-world performance by Doja Cat; she is the first of a series of artists Girls Who Code students will have the opportunity to support through AR development.
The effects created were added to Meta’s Spark AR Partners Network.
The initiative was facilitated by Meta, RCA Records, and Doja Cat in collaboration with Girls Who Code in an effort to encourage young women in the fundamentals of creating for augmented reality (AR) and all the great things that encompass AR tech industry.
“I really feel like the girls should always have an opportunity to pursue whatever career they want and not just a career that’s going to sustain them, but one they’re going to thrive in,” said Tokey.
A diverse tech pipeline is important, but it’s not enough to close the gender gap in tech without an inclusive workplace culture.
Here are five ways tech leaders can better support women and marginalized voices.https://t.co/1LwbYKlXw5
— Girls Who Code (@GirlsWhoCode) June 14, 2022
Aside from being a CEO, Dr. Tarika is a proud daughter of immigrants, a Black woman, and an educator with mounds of wisdom to provide. She advises other women to find a way to do what they love, in whatever way works best for them.
“I want women to know that they can do good in the world and find joy because of their career in tech. That’s why we recently created a Girls Who Code campaign called “Make That Change,” featuring real women in STEM who are using their tech skills to empower themselves while bettering their communities. We want women to know: you can create a career in STEM on your own terms.”