Karlie Kloss: People Don't Understand Why a Model Wants to Learn How to Code

Karlie Kloss: People Don't Understand Why a Model Wants to Learn How to Code

By MAKERS

May 15, 2018

When people are asked to name women in tech, one study found that two top responses are—wait for it—Siri and Alexa.

As an answer to this disturbing data, model and Kode with Klossy founder Karlie Kloss launched Trailblazers, a four-part video series that celebrates women who are using their STEAM skills to change industries like space, gaming, and food.

"We want to show girls how women have applied code to a number of different industries," Kloss tells MAKERS. "We hope this series helps address the notion that 'you can't be what you can't see.'"

There were a lot of raised eyebrows when one of fashion's biggest It Girls decided to explore computer science. "When I decided to take my first coding class, many people didn't understand why a model would want or need to learn code," says Kloss. But "code is a language and life skill that can be learned and applied to any industry you're passionate about."

We've seen unsung heroes in STEAM fields get their turn in the spotlight such as Katherine Johnson, whose story inspired the movie Hidden Figures, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae. And children are being introduced to historyMAKERS like Margaret Hamilton and Mae Jemison thanks to the Women of NASA Legos kit.

Now Kloss (who is also on the Board of Advisors at Oath, parent company to MAKERS) wants to introduce new names to those ranks such as YouTuber Justine Ezarik, who is one-upping the guys in the gaming world and former NASA astronaut and MAKER Cady Coleman.

Here, Kloss tells MAKERS about why she teamed up with the Ford STEAM Experience to create Trailblazers, the sexism she faces in tech, and the apps she can't live without.

Where did the idea for this series come from?

There are so many impressive women working in tech, but their stories too often go untold. We were inspired to create this series to help change that—to give girls role models in tech and show them the diverse and exciting opportunities available to them.

There was a survey recently that asked people to name women leaders in tech. The overwhelming majority of the people surveyed drew a blank. Others could only name Siri or Alexa. Reading these types of stories reminds me why the work we do at Kode With Klossy is so necessary and overdue. This series is an opportunity to celebrate the "hidden figures" of today and help bring women's leadership in STEAM fields to the forefront. The series is truly an extension of our mission at Kode With Klossy to empower girls to not only learn code, but become leaders in tech.

Why is this series important to produce now?

What message are you hoping to get across? We hope this series helps address the notion that "you can't be what you can't see." As we kick off our fourth year of Kode With Klossy, many of our scholars are enrolling in college to pursue careers in STEAM. They're starting to think through the many ways to work in tech, and it's important that they have role models and women's stories to learn from. Through this series, we want to show girls how women have applied code to a number of different industries.

It also goes beyond showing amazing women working in STEAM fields. We want to help girls see their potential in everything that they do. That's why it was so important to us that our production team was women-led. Our director, Eliza McNitt, and the rest of our crew for the series were all truly amazing. This series is a by-women-for-women project, and I'm so excited to share it with the world!

When you started learning about computer science, did anyone question your ability as a woman or your skill set given that you didn't come from a traditional STEAM background?

Absolutely. When I decided to take my first coding class, many people didn't understand why a model would want or need to learn code. Part of our mission with Kode With Klossy is to dispel the myth that code is just for the math or science whiz. Rather, code is a language and life skill that can be learned and applied to any industry you're passionate about. Food, mobility, space, and gaming are the industries we explore in this series, but tech is integral to every industry, including fashion!

What's one common quality or characteristic that each woman you interviewed shared?

These women are beyond brilliant and so successful in their fields. As I got to know them, they opened up and talked about feeling self-doubt and uncertainty at times. It's an important reminder that those feelings are normal and that so many of us face them, including women who have achieved major success in their careers.

What are five apps that every woman should have on their phones?

Headspace, Bumble Bizz, Spotify, Venmo, and Instagram are just a few of my favorites!

Name a MAKER who inspires you.

Anyone who is passionate and purposeful about what they do is a MAKER in my eyes, including the amazing women highlighted in the series. There are so many women in the MAKERS network who I admire, including Fei-Fei Li, Margaret Hamilton, Ursula Burns, Melinda Gates, and, of course, Cady Coleman.

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