180: Amy Renshaw (Code/Art)

I guess I was kind of used to that, I was used to being the only woman in the room, and it didn’t really bother me. I was just like, ‘I’ll just have to try harder, and do better.’ I had a lot of guy friends, and I think I kind of thrived in that atmosphere.

Welcome to Season 4 of Innovation City (The Miami Edition), a podcast featuring innovators, creators, and disruptors to discover how business is changing in the modern world.

Created and produced by SLAM! Agency and Aīre Ventures, Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community.

Today’s guest is Amy Renshaw, founder and CEO of Code/Art, a non-profit using art to inspire girls to become future coders and computer programmers. Amy has undergrad and graduate degrees from MIT, as well as an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. In this episode, Amy sits down with the team to discuss gender disparity in the tech world, Code/Art’s programs and offerings, the future of tech in Miami, and much more! 

They discuss:

  • Amy’s superpower
    • Problem-solving, thanks to her background in engineering
  • How Amy got into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)
    • Women are sadly underrepresented in this space
    • Her mom was a math teacher, who encouraged Amy’s love of math and science, before it was the thing to do
    • She went to school for engineering, then worked in Silicon Valley for a while before getting her business degree and working for tech in Boston
    • She took some time at home to raise her kids but always kept an eye on what was happening in the STEM world (MOOCs, taught herself to code, etc.)
    • When Lab Miami opened up, she felt the need to reconnect fully
  • Some of the challenges Amy has faced starting such a unique (but desperately needed) organization
    • Her first idea, Moms Who Code, failed
      • She learned there wasn’t such a need there
    • She didn’t get a lot of resistance for getting girls into coding
    • It started as a one-day event, and just grew from there
  • Code/Art Fest, is an annual event
    • The 2021 fest was fully virtual
    • Workshops, inspirational talks from women in tech
  • After the event, girls are encouraged to stay involved
    • Weekly coding clubs
    • Coding competitions
    • Come back and be an instructor
  • What it was like to be a woman in tech in school and in Silicon Valley
    • She was used to being the only woman, she was okay with it
    • But when her daughter started to come of age, Amy was surprised to see the gender disparity had grown
    • This was eye-opening for Amy 
  • Code/Art’s coding clubs are just for girls
    • This allows them to be more themselves
    • The coding clubs are really geared toward middle school girls
    • When boys are around, at that age the girls get self-conscious
  • Code/Art is giving art teachers training and tools to teach Code/Art lessons in schools
    • This allows them to reach boys as well as girls
  • Non-tech values for girls
    • Cooperation, breaking the loner-coder stereotype
      • End-of-the-year group projects
  • Amy’s real failures, and what she learned from them
    • Moms Who Code
      • Timing is really important
      • Audience isn’t always who you imagine it will be
  • Dealing with the administrative, entrepreneurial side
    • Her leadership style is grit
  • Five years into Code/Art, where are the students now?
    • First students are graduating
    • The majority are doing something in STEM
    • Many have come back to teach with Code/Art
  • Amy’s hope for tech changes in Miami
    • With the Miami tech movement taking off, it feels like it’s going to stick
    • We have to maintain the tech talent
    • We can grow the talent locally
      • That’s where Code/Art comes in
  • Sustainability, getting to a place to where Code/Art will last
    • Amy got lucky with timing and connections
      • Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp
      • Children’s Trust Capacity Building Program
    • Charging for classes in order to support the scholarship program
    • Professional development
    • A lot of grant writing
  • What Amy needs right now, besides money
    • She wants every elementary school student in South Florida to get access to creative and fun introduction to coding
    • That’s a good start
  • Some challenges the girls experience (outside coding/computer science
    • A lot of challenges during the pandemic
    • Virtual learning
  • Will there be a point where coders have coded themselves out of a job?
    • We’re getting closer to that
    • Knowing how it works is still important
  • What’s next?
    • Biases and how to avoid them are a big part of the curriculum for teachers
    • The Art in Artificial Intelligence
  • The principles of crypto and blockchains
    • Why aren’t kids learning about blockchain?
    • Future Tech LeadHERS
    • NFTs
  • Get in touch
    • On social @codeartorg, code-art.com

Lightning Round:

Where have you found peace?

  • In my backyard

What was your childhood dream?

  • To go into STEM, to do a lot of what I’ve done

What makes you lose track of time?

  • Those moments of “flow”

What is something new you recently tried and loved?

  • Filipino food

What is a defining moment in your life and how did it impact you?

  • When I saw that my daughter was doubting her future in computer science, because she looked around and didn’t see many people who looked like her