Tarika Barrett

CEO, Girls Who Code
Tarika Barrett in a navy blue blouse smirking at the camera with her arms folded
  • A pioneer who is leading initiatives to address inequities for women in the workplace and close the gender gap in technology
  • Educational disruptor equipping young women for success in STEM fields, with programs that have served 580,000 students around the world
  • Speaks to the importance of leading diversity and equity in the workplace, along with actionable steps to create an environment that is more inclusive and supportive of women and minorities

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With a career dedicated to addressing inequities in education and helping young women of all backgrounds succeed, Dr. Tarika Barrett is at the forefront of expanding the pipeline of women entering tech and removing the obstacles that stand in the way of them reaching their full potential. As the CEO of Girls Who Code, an international non-profit organization disrupting the tech industry and transforming perceptions of what a programmer can look like, she spearheads initiatives aimed at closing the gender gap in technology by inspiring, educating, and equipping young women with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.

Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, Dr. Barrett is a STEM education champion who speaks passionately about fighting for equity, change, and diversity. She walks audiences through issues that cause disparities and hinder achievement in education and the workplace — especially for women of color. Driven by her experience growing up the daughter of a Jamaican mother who instilled in her the importance of education and mentorship, Dr. Barrett shares actionable steps for progressing organizational culture to create environments that are more representative, inclusive, and supportive of women and other diverse groups.  

Dr. Barrett joined Girls Who Code in 2016 and, in February 2021, was handpicked by founder Reshma Saujani to lead the organization’s movement into the future. As CEO, she is focused on creating greater opportunities for women in STEM fields and advancing toward the ambitious goal of closing the gender gap in new entry-level tech jobs by 2030. Before taking the reins as CEO of Girls Who Code, Dr. Barrett held the roles of COO and vice president of programs, leading the organization’s free Summer Immersion Program and after-school Clubs Program, which have reached 580,000 girls around the world to date. She also managed the People & Culture team, as well as the launch of international and alumni programming.

Spending two decades building educational pathways for young people, before joining Girls Who Code Dr. Barrett served as the chief program officer at iMentor, leading the organization’s programmatic efforts to build mentoring relationships that support students from low-income families in graduating high school and succeeding in college. Prior to that, she worked in the Office of Postsecondary Readiness at the New York City Department of Education overseeing options for students off track academically, as well as developing new school models, including the Academy of Software Engineering — the first of its kind in New York. Dr. Barrett’s other previous experience includes serving as deputy network leader of the Brooklyn-Staten Island Network of New Visions for Public Schools, designing and implementing research and program evaluations for New York University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, teaching high school students, and working as a community organizer.

A graduate of Brooklyn College, Dr. Barrett has an M.A. in deaf education from Columbia Teachers College and a Ph.D. in teaching and learning from New York University. She has served on the boards of CSforALL, Eskolta, and McGraw Hill, a leading learning science company creating world-class educational content and providing best-in-class digital platforms for learners and educators. She also sits on the Homeland Security Advisory Council, is the recipient of the New York University Steinhardt School Dorothy Height Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, and was named one of Crain’s 50 Most Powerful Women in New York in 2021.

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You Cannot Be What You Cannot See. Dr. Tarika Barrett, CEO of Girls Who Code, is on a mission to close the gender gap in tech and change the perception of what a computer programmer looks like. Her first step on this ambitious mission is to empower young women — especially those from underrepresented backgrounds — to feel like they belong. 

In this talk, Dr. Barrett shines the light on the transformative power of learning spaces where women can collaborate to problem-solve, innovate, and envision themselves as leaders and, more importantly, equals in their fields. Speaking with a palpable passion, she inspires individuals to dream big and let go of their fears while emphasizing the importance of mentorship and outlining ways that organizations can advance their cultures to be more supportive of women, amplify their voices, and tear down systemic roadblocks that women so often encounter in the workplace. 

Leading Through Challenging Times. As a woman of color, Dr. Tarika Barrett possesses unique understanding and insight of the disproportionate impact evolving socioeconomic factors have had on women in tech and across all industries in recent years. With that in mind, she knew that taking the reins as CEO of Girls Who Code offered the perfect opportunity to continue carrying out the mission of building up women and underrepresented groups that are often left behind or systemically locked out from access to opportunities. In this eye-opening talk, she shares real-life examples of how leaders can unite and engage their teams during challenging periods and best practices for pivoting your business when faced with disruption. 

Cracking the Code to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Dr. Tarika Barrett’s primary key to advancing organizations to be more equitable and inclusive is to first acknowledge where we are with women and underrepresented groups in the workplace and where we need to be. Dr. Barrett discusses the cultural issues and systemic barriers in place that inhibit achievement for women and underrepresented groups, while providing a framework for organizations — in tech, as well as across industries and society — to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments that spark real change and real results. The insights she shares offer a solid foundation from which organizations can begin to rethink their approaches to compensation, promotions, work from home policies, family leave policies, and flexibility for employees with equity and inclusion in mind.

Reprogramming Education. According to Dr. Tarika Barrett, there are points in the educational pipeline that need to be reprogrammed. This is supported by the fact that women make up only 25 percent of the tech workforce, a statistic that decreases to 18% for women of color. And for women in tech, 50 percent leave the industry by the age of 35 due to the lack of systems in place to support them and ensure their inclusion. 

In this talk, Dr. Barrett points to the work Girls Who Code is doing to shape and adapt its programming around the ever-evolving tech industry so that students have equal opportunities to have hands-on experience with cybersecurity, AI, and other emerging areas in the tech space. As part of the discussion, she shares how inequity and lack of representation for women and underrepresented groups begins early in their education — long before they ever make it to the workplace. She’ll discuss the current pipeline problem and provide her insights and best practices for reprogramming education to elevate women and underrepresented groups in every field, and champion the viewpoints and contributions they bring to organizations. 

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