Women Behind the Magic: Kelly White on Bridging the Gender Gap in the Technology Field through CODE:Rosie
From the Disney Parks Blog and written by: Jennifer Fickley-Baker
Thousands of #WomenBehindtheMagic are using their diverse skillsets to bring magic to Disney fans and guests each and every day – whether they’re crafting award-winning fine dining experiences or bringing fan-favorite characters to life. For Kelly White, Senior Director, Parks Experiences, Emerging Tech & Innovation, at Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, making magic means creating digital products for guests that enhance their Disney experience, from planning with the My Disney Experience or Disneyland mobile apps to having even more fun in the parks with the Play Disney Parks app, but also creating magical opportunities for Disney employees through the groundbreaking CODE:Rosie program.
After graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in business, marketing and journalism, Kelly began her Disney career in mobile gaming as a project manager. Now, as a 13-year veteran in the technology field, she has seen the evolution of mobile gaming over the past decade, and has established a successful career for herself in the technology field.
“I had an affinity for tech, even though I never studied it,” she said, noting that her early days at Disney benefited from her personal enjoyment of gaming and finding new challenges. Now, Kelly gets to put those passions to work creating digital experiences and tools for Disney guests.
Fast forward to 2016, when Kelly seized the opportunity to help launch the CODE:Rosie program at Disney. For Kelly, pursuing a career in a historically male-dominated field like technology or engineering is an opportunity to challenge the stereotypes and help reduce gender gap – something that CODE:Rosie also aims to do.
“It was a top priority for us at the beginning to think about not only how do we create a community that creates a connection and networking for women that are in these fields, or want to be in technology, but what can we do to take it further,” she recalls of how CODE:Rosie got started and a mission to increase diversity in tech. “I remember thinking, ‘what can we do to make progress immeditely?’ And that’s what CODE:Rosie did.”
The CODE:Rosie program at Disney offers women in non-technical roles an opportunity to learn technology and coding skills, with an ultimate goal of finding a place in a new career path in technology at the company. While enrolled in the program, women – dubbed “Rosies” – are able to learn from others in their cohort as well as mentors and advisors, with the extra comfort of being able to return to their original role if they decide that tech isn’t the right fit for them. And the best part is, any eligible woman at Disney can apply for the program!
“Sometimes life just gets in the way,” Kelly says, sharing how inspiring it is to see women work through and complete the program. “Programs like CODE:Rosie are great reminders – even for myself – that we all have a responsibility and an opportunity to challenge ourselves.”
Kelly proudly shares that since the program’s beginning, all Rosies have been placed in technical fields throughout Disney, whether that means a role at Walt Disney Imagineering, Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios or somewhere else. Now looking to the future, she’s thinking of how to expand the program to offer even more opportunities for women!
“I think what’s most inspiring is these women taking the risk,” she says about the highlights of her work. “For these women, they stepped out of a job and chose a new career path, and this program created that pathway for them.”
We know that the Rosies’ futures are bright, and we’re thrilled to share how women at Disney are taking advantage of resources and programs to help them in their personal and professional goals! We’re so proud of Kelly for her exceptional work in closing the gender gap in technology, and we can’t wait to see where the next phase of CODE:Rosie takes us. Stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for more inspiring stories of our #WomenBehindtheMagic!