A blog feature written by Olivia Xiao, a Hackergal participant and passionate coding enthusiast!
Today it is not unusual for people to hear about exciting breakthroughs in technology and big developments in the future of mankind. Often, it’s a new function for phones or another rocket launched by Elon Musk, and behind most of those advancements, one can often sense intrigue, tremendous effort, and fantastic programming skills. The accomplishments of experienced coders, often showcased on the news or through social media, have always seemed nothing short of extraordinary to me, as someone who knew nothing about coding at the time. These new developments happening right beneath our eyes are in some ways veiled from us, and their powers exclusively reserved to those who are well versed in the art of coding.
Personally, I have heard more than my fair share of “programming is an important skill in life you will need to survive in the 21st century,” from teachers and from parents and just from the news. However, many schools don’t have programming or coding-based courses. Due to this lack of exposure, I was genuinely shocked when I heard about the gender inequality in technology-related fields at a Hackergal presentation that was brought to our school. The statistics showed that only about 20% of people working in those jobs are women, while the majority was comprised of men. In fact, as I learned, this inequality was mainly due to the early exposure boys have to computers and computer games, which are specifically marketed to them and the lack of representation of women in the media.
This was not only absurd, but also illogical, because girls have just as much to contribute to coding and have been a big part of computer science historically. I was outraged and decided I wanted to be part of the solution, so I joined the Hackergal program the next day. At first, all I heard was that it was a program to learn to code for girls. Yet, as I became more involved with Hackergal, I realized it was an opportunity to increase my confidence with using technology in addition to standing up for female representation. It didn’t matter if I was good at it or not, I just wanted to try it out and see what coding is like.
As I later came to realize, coding was quite simple given the right instructions and a positive learning space. Like anybody learning a new skill, I, along with other people participating in the program, started with the basics in an online program that was provided. A day later, everyone was able to program a short animation with moving objects in Python, and with that learning, came more confidence in our skills. Since there were about 10 of us at our school, we would meet at lunch together and the Hackergal program felt more supportive than individual coding courses outside of school.
Girls should not be perceived as bad at coding, and when given the opportunity, girls can do just as well (if not better!). That first year, I participated in Hackergal’s 3rd Annual Hackathon with thousands of other girls across Canada, and through it, I truly felt like I was making a difference. It proved, not only to myself, but to my classmates and all those who don’t think girls belong in technology fields, that I can code and I did!
Throughout these past two years, the confidence I had built up with my coding skills encouraged me to branch out to new opportunities, including taking an AP course in computer science next year.
To all the girls out there that are thinking of going into coding, or just want to try it out, I highly encourage you to go for it! Do it to give yourself more options in the future and because you are certainly better at coding than you know. You won’t know that until you try! Take it upon yourself to learn a bit of code and show the world that you have a stake in the future!