I could not be more thrilled and honored to introduce our special guest for this month’s edition of That’s What She Said! Karlie Kloss is a world renowned supermodel, entrepreneur, and girlboss. On her, you can find Karlie behind the scenes at events like the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, the Oscars, and the MET Gala, in addition to interviewing CEOs, running the New York City marathon, and, surprisingly enough, baking. While I could go on and on about Karlie’s accomplishments, like being featured on the , I’ll stick to the basics: Karlie is a “six foot two giraffe from the Lou” with a passion for coding. Since 2014, Karlie has transformed her love of programming into a non- profit organization called that gives girls access to an education in computer science. This past summer I had the privilege of attending Kode with Klossy’s two week program in New York City. It was truly an amazing experience. Never before had I been surrounded by so many intelligent young women who were all so passionate about STEM and closing the gender gap in tech. Although it was a relatively short period of time, I acquired so many new skills and and truly gained a different perspective as to what learning could be like. Some of my personal highlights from the program include getting to chat with Marne Levine, the COO of Instagram, and building a virtual reality game with two of my best friends from camp, who I still stay in touch with, that combined our interests in feminism and education. And of course, none of this would have been possible if I hadn't taken one of the many coding classes BB&N has to offer last year — and I encourage everyone to do the same! When one is equipped with the basics of computer science, the possibilities to apply and expand them are endless. Enjoy!
A Chat with Karlie Koss
Nilu Cooper: What are you currently studying at NYU?
Karlie Kloss: I’m enrolled in NYU’s Gallatin School, which is specifically designed for students who work full time. I’ve taken amazing classes in creative writing, women's studies and computer science — all topics that interest me and that I would like to pursue further. Pursuing my college degree has been a lifelong dream of mine, and it was my friend and mentor Christy Burlington who encouraged me to enroll in NYU, while also continuing my modeling career.
How do you balance your academic life and modeling career?
Balancing work and school can definitely be tricky but I try to really prioritize what’s important to me and what feels purposeful. No matter how crazy my schedule is, I always make sure to set aside time do something active. It helps me stay mentally calm and focused, and balance the many busy aspects of my life.
What sparked your interest in computer programming and STEM?
I’ve always been interested in math and science, and growing up I actually wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and become a doctor! While I ended up taking a slightly different path, that passion for math and science never went away. Believe it or not, it was actually my fashion career that sparked my fascination with technology. I was watching the industry transform because of technology. From fashion week to retail to media, the industry has completely changed in the past five years. I’m a very curious person by nature, so I took my first coding class three years ago hoping it would help me better understand this shift. Needless to say, I was instantly hooked!
How and why did you create Kode With Klossy?
I started Kode With Klossy to empower other young women to learn code: With the help of my incredible team, we launched a scholarship in 2015 followed by our own coding camps in 2016 and it’s been growing ever since! By providing access to coding education and showing girls that it’s not this impossible, elusive skill, our aim is that more young women will enter the STEM field and go on to shape technology’s future.
What do you think are the best aspects of Kode With Klossy?
As you know personally, our Kode With Klossy students and alums not only grow their skills in code during the camps, they also go on to develop lifelong friendships. I love that a community of coders has formed! It’s such a privilege to be part of the students’ lives and journeys. It's awesome to know I’m watching the next generation of tech leaders and innovators in action.
Why did you feel it was important to make the program exclusively for girls?
In my first year of coding classes, I realized there just weren’t enough girls in code and tech, and the numbers back this up. It needs to change. Learning code is an important opportunity to help build our future, and I wanted ensure more young women have a seat at the table.
Are you a feminist? If so, what does feminism mean to you?
I’m definitely a feminist! To me, feminism is about advocating for equal rights and opportunities for women. It’s also about self-empowerment and tapping into our own personal potential. Embracing who we are, celebrating what makes us different and supporting other women is the true meaning of feminism.
What responsibilities do you believe come with having such a large platform/following?
I believe it’s my responsibility to use my platform for good and promote causes and issues that I’m passionate about.
Who inspires you?
You and the rest of our Kode With Klossy alums! I’m so proud of all of you who have dedicated yourselves to learning code. So many of our Kode With Klossy girls continue taking on new challenges in STEM even after the camps have finished — winning hackathons, building cool apps and enrolling as computer science majors in college. It’s amazing to watch, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in-store for you!
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Honestly, I’m still deciding that myself! Right now my focus is growing Kode With Klossy, trying new things, working a ton and traveling as much as possible. Maybe in ten years I’ll be able to travel to space — that would be pretty amazing!
Girls Advancing in STEM
Girls have always had something to prove. Only if a girl excels in math classes or surpasses the teacher’s expectations in a physics class will someone acknowledge her intelligence. She has to work constantly toward an almost impossible goal simply so that someone can accept the fact that she belongs in the challenging classes she is in. Meanwhile, a boy has little to prove. It matters little if he is in the highest or lowest level of a class. More doors will open for him, especially in STEM fields, despite having lower grades, because boys are just smarter than girls, right?
The Girls Advancing in STEM (GAINS) network started at Greenwich Academy in an effort to encourage girls to participate in STEM fields and to take away the image that girls do not belong in labs or lecture halls or the front row of the hardest math classes. While the hope of STEM fields becoming gender balanced seems somewhat conceivable to us, forty or fifty years ago, it was unimaginable. At that time, no one was there to tell a woman to hold her head up high as she entered a STEM classroom. We are the women who followed that generation and we are what those women hoped the future would entail. At that same time, however, we are still far from a gender balanced world of STEM. Universities such as MIT, Duke, UNC, and Stanford have welcomed GAINS clubs from around the world with open arms. At these annual conferences, girls are given tours, lectures, and an inside scoop into the careers they dream of pursuing. These conferences have introduced so many new perspectives to all attendees and allowed them to set previously- unfathomable goals for themselves.
Two years ago we brought the initiative of GAINS to BB&N, where we wanted to contribute to the growing movement of women becoming prominent figures in STEM. In our meetings we push girls to go against the status quo, connect girls to leading scientists, and seek to show others that girls do not have to be an outlier in their STEM class to be smart. Our philosophy is that intelligence is not marked by a grade that describes only a two-dimensional version of oneself. The intelligence of a woman is not black and white. Neither appearance, nor success, nor a grade should define her or distinguish her ability to work in a STEM class/career from another
This past month, the GAINS club at BB&N has visited the Baldwin School in Cambridge twice to teach a fun lecture and do a lab with DNA extraction. The first week, we talked to second through fifth graders about what traits are, and examples of recessive traits that they identify. The kids loved looking at inheritance wheels and observed that everyone had a different number; everyone was unique. The next week we came with supplies ready to take DNA out of strawberries. Despite the messy execution, every child was able to extract and take home their own strand of DNA. Seeing young girls and boys get wildly excited about science inspired our club further.
We aim to carry out similar projects at BB&N’s lower and middle school and make it clear to girls of all ages that there is no bar of excellence that women have to overcome to be seen in the scientific community. We are hopeful that one day girls advancing in STEM can be a normality rather than an exception.