Laura Dern Backs Gender Parity with Code-a-Thon, $350k in Scholarships

Actress Laura Dern, posing for a photo supporting the @thelipsticklobby, a social justice beauty brand partnering with Brady, the country’s first gun safety organization, to reduce gun violence in America. (Photo Credit: Laura Dern, Instagram) 

From whip-smart dino doctor Ellie Satler to tech-savvy businesswoman Renata Klein, Laura Dern’s passion shines through in her roles on screen. Behind the scenes, Dern’s commitment to philanthropy, empowerment, and equality for all add up to something just shy of a revolution — and the tech industry is her next target.

As part of’s first Women in Tech Code-a-thon, Dern announced $350,000 in grants that will benefit STEM education for young women and girls.

The Code-a-thon is the company’s latest foray in its Women in Tech programming, bringing 10 girls aged 16-19 to San Francisco for a two-day technology immersion. After a lengthy application process, the 10 winners joined Dern, CEO Gillian Tans, and a team of female tech pioneers at the CNET Smart Home on April 28 and 29. At the closing reception, Dern announced’s $350,000 commitment to scholarships for women and girls in STEM.

The event marks the culmination of a longtime commitment to gender equality that Dern shares with Tans.

“ is committed to seeing the number of women in technology rise, working to encourage, support and uplift women to discover, grow and succeed in technology, across any age group, especially emerging talent,” wrote Tans in a Facebook post about the Code-a-thon. “As one of the most diverse and gender-balanced technology companies in the world, we are passionate about ensuring that everyone has access to opportunities within the industry.’s Code-a-thon event is a call to action for young women interested in pursuing the tech industry to start their tech education before entering college, but furthermore is a call to action to provide more resources to young, emerging talent and foster their curiosity and passion for tech.”

This call to action is one that Dern holds close to her heart. “Gillian and I are thinking in the same way,” she said, “which is, ‘How can we as fellow women workers lift these numbers to reach gender and diversity parity across all industries?’ And along with that, how about respect? How about integrity in the workplace? There’s a lot of work to do. It’s the work I’m deeply focused on.”

Dern links her passion for women’s equity in the tech industry to her experience as a leading actor in tech-focused movies — such as 1993’s Jurassic Park, which shattered expectations and transformed technology for the movie industry.

“I was in the first CGI movie, which was Jurassic Park,” she said. “Technology was this crazy new adventure, where I was witnessing the pioneers try to figure out how to do it. Now it’s advanced to a space where all doors are open. …Personally, I’m understanding where science and art meet in a very new way. And it’s really moving to see how these girls’ brains are getting around all of it.”

This is not the first time that Dern has used her stardom as a platform for positive change — and it certainly won’t be the last. In 2017, Dern and her daughter Jaya Harper partnered with Johnson & Johnson and the United Nations Foundation to support the Global Moms Relay, an online fundraising “race” supporting nonprofit organizations through social media. Dern has also been a longtime supporter of the leadership development and female empowerment program Girl Up, and served as one of the hosts of 2018’s “Badass Women” dinner with InStyle, celebrating female success and entrepreneurship in Los Angeles.

Today, Dern is zeroing in on gender parity in STEM fields, after her role as Renata Klein in HBO’s Big Little Lies opened her eyes to women’s difficulties in the industry.

“I didn’t really know what it meant to be a woman worker in the world of tech until I played [Renata Klein] and started talking to CEOs and board members of major tech companies in Silicon Valley,” said Dern, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “These seemingly very powerful women had to grow up in an industry much like mine where there’s only one spot at the table. It’s a very treacherous trail to get that one spot.”

Dern’s hope is that drawing attention to issues of gender inequality will help to close the gap between women and opportunities in STEM. In partnership with, Dern hopes to unite women and girls with the tech-based opportunities that will fuel careers in STEM industries.

“[Women and girls] need job access and to have scholarships so they have the opportunity to go to the schools that are not only going to teach the language of coding and support them, but also blur the line of what they can do with it,” she said. “Hopefully not only inspires other companies and tech companies to reach parity, but also helps them understand why it’s important to create scholarships for young women and people of color to find their way and advance in these industries.”

To learn more about’s Code-a-thon and commitment to female empowerment, read the company’s press release or visit their website at

To learn more about Laura Dern, her upcoming projects, and the causes she supports, follow her journey on Instagram.

For more stories about celebrities using their platforms for the greater good, read about musical duo Tegan and Sarah’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion, or Cedella Marley’s sponsorship of Reggae Girlz team as they take on the Women’s World Cup.


Philanthropy Women covers funding for gender equity in all sectors of society. We want to significantly shift public discourse, particularly in philanthropy, toward increased action for gender equality. You can support our work and access unlimited and premium content with one of our subscriptions

Author: Maggie May

Maggie May is a small business owner, author, and story-centric content strategist. A Maryland transplant by way of Florida, DC, Ireland, Philadelphia, and -- most recently -- Salt Lake City, she has a passion for finding stories and telling them the way they're meant to be told.

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