STEM & Stilettos: Former VS Model Talks Coding, Couture & Changing The Status Quo

Human Interest

Maybe one day the world will stop underestimating Black women, but until then Lyndsey Scott —actress, Victoria's Secret model, first Black woman to receive a contract with Calvin Klein at New York Fashion Week, and a noted iOS coder— is here to put the haters in their place.


Earlier this fall, the meme Instagram account @Coding.Engineer originally reposted an image highlighting Lyndsey's coding and modeling experience, headlining the meme with the caption, "CODING IS FOR ANYONE!" Unsurprisingly, numerous people threw jabs in the comments, suggesting that her coding experience was overstated, concluding it was a "shame" that she chose to model.

In response, Lyndsey clapped back at online trolls who tried to box her in: "I have 27481 points on StackOverflow; I'm on the iOS tutorial team for RayWendelich.com; I'm the lead iOS software engineer for @RallyBound, the 841st fastest growing company in the US according to @incmagazine, I have a Bachelor's degree from Amherst where I double majored in computer science and theater, and I'm able to live my life doing everything I love. Looking at these comments I wonder why 41% of women in technical careers drop out because of a hostile work environment," she wrote in an Instagram comment responding to negative opinions.

According to statistics from Fast Company and the EEOC, the percentage share of Black female professionals in tech has continued to decline despite targeted diversity initiatives aimed at increasing underrepresented minorities. Between 2007 and 2015, there was a 13% decrease in the number of Black female professionals in the tech field and we can look to the historical intersectional struggles that women of color face in the STEM field, as contributing factors. Organizations like @BlackGirlsCode, @WomenWhoCode, and @GirlsWhoCode strive to introduce and support women and girls as they pursue technical careers, hopefully increasing interest and overall retention in the field.

lyndseyscott.comKendrick Willardt

In celebration of #NationalSTEMDay and providing you with your daily dose of #Blackgirlmagic, xoNecole recently connected with Lyndsey to discuss her modeling career, passion for coding, and her dream to change the status quo.

Tell us a bit about your background, modeling journey, and educational pursuits leading to your interest in STEM.

I entered Amherst College majoring in theater and realized at one point that I had time to pick up a second major. So, I tried economics and physics, then happened to take a computer science class on a whim... I took to programming right away [and realized that] I love that type of problem-solving. I ended up graduating as a theater and computer science double major. Immediately after college, I started acting in New York City and eventually ended up signing onto an acting agency with a modeling department. After a year and a half of doing both, the modeling took off first.

lyndseyscott.com

Before I knew it, I was suddenly the first African American to land an exclusive contract with Calvin Klein, and as a result, I decided to devote my energy to modeling. I ended up working with Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Vogue, W Magazine, and many other brands by the end of the year.

What motivates you?

Doing what I love motivates me. And I feel fortunate that I've been able to structure my life in a way where I have the freedom to do everything I love. I wrote a screenplay earlier this year that tells a true story that's very important to me, and it's currently in pre-production. Since I've been in Los Angeles, I've had the freedom to produce, audition, and go to my weekly acting classes, while still being able to code at home for 20 hours a week; working on cool technologies with great clients. I enjoy the balance that comes from using both sides of my mind.

What has been your biggest success or favorite moment as a model?

lyndseyscott.com

Last year, I put together a workshop for the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. I assembled a team of badass female programming mentors. The Girl Scouts had so much fun coding their own websites and meeting a bunch of talented female role models.

What are some challenges and/or stereotypes that you face as a model, female in STEM, and Black woman – or a combination if they intersect?

I had trouble landing an iOS job until I went the extra mile to prove my expertise by answering a bunch of questions on Stack Overflow and writing tutorials. Before then, although I had coded several apps on my own and had a Bachelor's [degree] in Computer Science, I didn't feel like I was being taken seriously. There were times I'd walk into a room of male programmers and they'd abruptly end their conversation about coding because, as they said, "I wouldn't be interested."

Are there any resources/communities you believe women of color should pursue in order to find support for their interest in STEM?

lyndseyscott.com

Black Girls Code is a wonderful organization for young girls [interested in tech]. Although I haven't personally used Women

Who Code as a resource, I hear great things about them as well. What's one piece of advice you would offer girls and women interested in pursuing a future in STEM?

From the experience I've had after commenting under that @coding.engineer post, I've learned that it's important to speak up for yourself whenever you feel misunderstood.

Five Random Things:

    1. Favorite food? I love variety and trying new things. So, my favorites don't stay favorite for long.
    2. Favorite hair product? The Glamsquad app.
    3. Instagram or Twitter? Instagram
    4. Apple or Android? Apple — I'm an iOS developer after all! ;)
    5. One thing you can't live without? I do love my dog an awful lot.

To keep up with Lyndsey, follow her on Instagram!

Images courtesy of Paul Smith Photography, @Lyndsey360 and lyndseyscott.com

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