TLS: What barriers do you think women face when it comes to STEM?

Dea: The issue of lacking women equality has been apparent for centuries; however, it is not until pretty recently that the last three generations have rights. Women have always been told that they should stay in the kitchen, or get a job, but become a nurse, not a doctor. In fact, when the US was getting ready for World War II, the US government had pink-coloured jobs - jobs that even an average woman would be able to figure out.

Seemingly not a big deal, but adding pink-coloured jobs to our workforce meant that women - and men - were now aware that there was a clear distinction between them, even though women had just recently gotten the right to vote. In the US, teenage girls make up 46% of AP Calculus test takers, but only 18% of undergrad CS students.

In some countries, women cannot even vote or get a proper education, so for me, I just hope that the books that Novel Girls sends out are able to inspire little girls around the world. To make them realize that they can, in fact, become the problem-solvers, the engineers, and the physicists that we are so in need of.

TLS: What advice would you give to female students to encourage them to study traditionally "male" subjects?

Dea: I will be completely honest and say that my school forced me to take my first computer class. But, to girls out there that have to put themselves in the position to take a course that is filled with boys, I say do it. In my AP Physics class, most of the kids are boys. But, that doesn't stop me, and it shouldn't affect any of the girls who want to take these classes.

‍‍‍To any girl that feels as if they shouldn't take a course that is in a "traditionally male" subject, I say, you got this. You will always have support fro‍‍‍m‍‍‍ women and me all around you. Go be brilliant.

‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍‍Meet Dea Kurti (@deakurti), the brilliant 16-year old US student who is spreading her love of coding around the world  and using her knowledge to help those in need.

She has helped set up a programme, Novel Girls, which sends books about coding and STEM worldwide in areas of need.

This has so far raised $300,000 and counting! Dea spoke to us about her background in an immigrant household, h‍‍‍ow she was introduced to coding and the roles of both men and women in education. She also shares with us her upcoming “Roadmap” project which aims to make it easier for immigrants to enter the US.

Dea Kurti

The girl who codes‍‍‍

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The rise of women does not mean the decline of men; in fact, it more so emphasizes that we can work together to produce the change that this world needs to see.

TLS: Tell us about coding and why you think it is important for girls and women to learn it.

Dea: Growing up in an immigra‍‍‍nt household - as I was - I was constantly reminded that when college came around, I would either go into law or medicine. And to be completely honest, I was okay with that. I decided that I wanted to become a paediatric surgeon. But, everything changed when I entered my first computer science class; I learned more in that 45-minute lecture then I had ever learned before.

Everyone - girl or boy - should learn how to code, or at least try to learn how to code, because if you know how to program, you are opened up to so much; the power is all in your hands.

‍‍‍‍‍‍TLS: What would you say to your male peers about encouraging women in education?

Dea: I would say to my male peers - some who feel as if feminism is a new wave trying to get rid of males- to remember how relevant they are in the fight for equality. Feminism is not the motion that women are superior to men; feminism is the ideology that women and men are equal.

The perpetual idea that women and men can work -side by side- to make the world a better, safer, cleaner place. The rise of women does not mean the decline of men; in fact, it more so emphasizes that we can work together to produce the change that this world needs to see.

TLS: You’re using your skills to develop a website called Roadmap to help refugees navigate their way through the paperwork when they enter the US. Can you tell us more about this and when it will go live?

Dea: My journey with creating Roadmap began long before I learned how to code. On December 20, 2016, I learned about the tragedy going on in Aleppo, and I discovered how crucial America's involvement in Syria would soon become. Seeing kids younger then me being killed in their home country was the first real issue that I had been exposed to. I got incredibly interested in foreign politics, and that's what I decided to help.I started fundraising but realized that that wasn't enough.

The idea of Roadmap came to me when I went on the UNHCR website to look up how to get refugee status and come to the US. Even as a native speaker, it was hard for me to understand what was going on because it was so confusing and wordy. I wanted to create a more straightforward process for coming to the US.

TLS: Now for the hard-hitting questions: normal fries or curly fries?

Dea: Curly fries all the way. There is a place near my school that sells the most amazing curly fries, and whenever we have Student Government meetings, we all go out and get curly fries.

TLS: Sleep or food?

Dea: No answer. I'm able to fall asleep in the strangest places. I fall asleep on my train ride to school every day; I fall asleep while doing my homework on my desk, I fall asleep while writing up an email, I've even fallen asleep in the middle of programming. But, I love food. When I was younger, I was used to wake up in the middle of the night to go and eat slices of cheese.

TLS: Ketchup or mayonnaise?

Dea: Honey mustard with barbeque sauce. I know, it's weird.

TLS: Jeans or sweatpants?

Dea: Sweatpants.

To read more about Dea and her upcoming projects, go to You can also find information about Novel Girls at with donations made payable at

Are you inspired by Dea’s story? Let us know your thoughts and share your own inspiring stories.