While watching a Netflix show about a startup company that helped create technology for the blind, it clicked, "technology can help our world in so many ways," said Athena Rhee.
So Rhee started teaching herself how to code.
The rising sophomore at Phillips Andover was recently appointed to a global nonprofit board that specializes in getting girls involved with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the Code Your Chances Youth Leadership Board.
On her middle school mathematics team, Rhee first saw the gender disparity between girls and boys participating in the STEM field. She was one of two girls on a team of boys.
However, during competitions "we stood on the podium at the end," she said of her and the other girl on her team.
When she started learning about coding and artificial intelligence she realized how important it was to have women involved because AI is so pervasive, she said.
"AI is going to solve real-world challenges in the future," she said from her home in Seoul, South Korea. "If only men participate and create the AI and implement the data then it will only solve their problems, not women's problems as well."
Rhee joined the leadership board to help close the gender gap in technology because the nonprofit specializes in teaching girls how to code. The nonprofit specifically hosts interactive workshops teaching girls and young women how to code, she said.
Rhee is very interested in how AI is being used in the medical field for diagnosing disease, she said. She pointed out women and men have very different medical needs often, so its important to have women at the table when creating the AI to solve medical issues, she said.
"Banks also use algorithms to determine who gets loans, so that (gender disparity) could hurt underrepresented groups," she said. "The more perspectives brought to the table the faster and better we can solve the issues we face today."
Rhee plans to take coding courses and participate in coding clubs when she returns to Phillips this fall.
For more information on the nonprofits work visit codeyourchances.com.