Supermodel Karly Kloss has unquestionably cultivated a well-rounded resume. The runway regular and cover girl mainstay can also add tech visionary to her repertoire, with the successful reception of her programming camp for young girls. Kloss launched the coding initiative in response to the under-representation of women in STEM occupations. She hopes to inspire young girls to pursue tech positions by equipping them with knowledge and exposure to code.
Code and clothes
The 90s initiated the era of the “Supermodel,” making these women multidimensional icons. The succeeding generation of supermodels, equipped with technology-boosted presence, is poised to pioneer a new title: The super-mogul.
Karly Kloss is one of these such model/moguls—a modern iteration of the supermodel tour de force. Kloss, a mainstay on runways and covers, is a fashion favorite—a name that has achieved household status. She has a proven resume that far surpasses the catwalk.
But the leverage that came from her massive presence was not simply relegated to industry appearances, famous friends or free clothes.
Coming from an industry that can be stereotypically feminine (and, unfortunately, and incorrectly, stereotypically vapid), we were offered few hints to her next frontier.
In fact, the sheer juxtaposition between her first frontier and the next is my favorite part of this story. I love the anomaly, the wild card, the unexpected, the proved-ya-wrong, the plot twist you never saw coming.
You see, the trend that most caught Kloss’s eye was nowhere near runways, and it wasn’t being written about in those glossy magazines.
Propelled by simple curiosity, Kloss decided to learn how to code. Along the way, she noticed the gender disparity in her classes, ultimately indicating the gender disparity in relevant occupations. And a quick statistical report will expose there is, in fact, a disconcerting representation of women in technology.
This void within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) occupations lit a spark in Kloss, prompting an initiative to reverse that trend.
So what are the stats?
It is predicted that, in the next decade, 80% of all jobs will require technological skills.
This percentage, coupled with one that says STEM job growth is increasing 300% faster than non-STEM jobs, reveals an unsettling disparity if left unchecked. Over a decade (2005-15,) STEM occupations grew at more than five times the rate of other industries, while the diversity represented in this industry remained relatively stagnant.
Women make up less than a quarter of the STEM workforce, falling under 20% as those occupations become increasingly engineering or computer-based. Meanwhile, women of color make up less than 10%.
Much of the problem begins in education, with only 30% of STEM degrees going to women. But even for the ones who make it to the office, the underrepresentation has proven cyclical. It was found that over half of women working in STEM ultimately leave their jobs. These women cite isolating or hostile work environments attributed to aggressive male-dominated workplaces. 32% leave their positions within their first year. So even the women who enter these industries end up leaving, thus keeping representation low.
STEM needs women, to not only create safer environments for employees but to also offer different perspectives. New and varying perspectives are the foundation for innovation, which is inherently integral to an industry based on solving problems and advancing our collective future.
At Business of Fashion’s Voices conference, Karlie pointed out that:
Coding is a superpower
-Karlie Kloss, Business of Fashion
Kloss’s desire for women to infiltrate this industry is embodied in her organization Kode with Klossy. In this program, Kloss equips young girls to consider, learn and then pursue this sector.
Her desire to not only bring attention to the issue but to also improve it is where all of Kloss’s effort circulate. A new ad campaign? Sounds like new investment money for Kode with Klossy. A large range of influence? All the better to convey her cause.
Kode with Klossy, which initially launched in 2016 as a 2-week summer program in 3 cities, expanded to 10 cities this year. The program boasts 100 alum so far.
Linking fashion and coding is the perfect storm. As day and night as the two industries may initially seem, fashion’s target market is literally the missing market in the technology industry. This intersection connects women to new opportunities, right where they already are. Kloss’s preexisting reach and familiarity in the fashion sector elevates her crossover appeal and potential reach.
Fashion was meant for code —& vice versa
In fact, there may be no better juxtaposition between the two industries—fashion, predominantly dominated by women, is the perfect vessel to build the bridge connecting these women to an industry that our future generally depends upon.
Models, especially in the social media age, are able to curate a sense of individuality, making poignant statements that they are significantly more than a pretty face. Kloss is only one of many runway moguls pioneering grand ideas and propelling activist movements. She is joined by fellow models Noëlla Coursaris Musunka, Christy Turlington, Natalia Vodianova, and Liya Kebede.
This new and worthwhile trend adds dimension to an industry and its representatives that is far overdue. The supermodel stereotype undermined the women who bore its title, automatically assumed to be empty-headed, pretty faces on top of a pair of great legs.
But social media has given them a voice and a vessel to distinguish themselves apart from the sea of expressionless faces marching down a catwalk, to convey their personalities, dreams and goals. And with it, we are seeing their leverage take on new frontiers that far transcend the boundaries of fashion.
Also published on Medium.