Just a few days after #InternationalWomensDay2020, topics like the gender gap, women in tech, and equal pay are taking over our social feeds and we are so excited to see more of these conversations popping up. After all, we are acutely aware that more women are needed in tech spaces, and we have the stats to back it up.
Women account for 23% of the STEM workforce, a number that has grown by only 3 percent since the 80s. In Canada, over half (53%) of tech companies have no women on their executive teams.
The issue is clear, but how do we solve it?
Working with teachers and girls, we have a pretty clear vision on the subject, but we wanted to go to the source and find out from them what is inspiring girls to code. We spoke with Cari Wilson, a technology and robotics teacher in British Colombia, as well as Janat Baig, a student and Hackergal alumn currently completing a tech co-op with us.
Here’s what they had to say:
Encouraging Creative Expression
We know that learning a new topic is intimidating for both teachers and students, with the idea of learning code sometimes feeling impossible. When you explain to students that code is a tool that they can use to create anything they want, oftentimes, they run with it.
“Most of the girls I work with, the thing that appeals to them the most about coding is the creative side of it,” says Wilson. “The ability to create stories or create characters that they can then use code to animate. It’s the creativity of making something come to life that they’ve dreamt of. This is what excites them.”
We also asked Janat what she liked about coding, and received a similar response. “I enjoy coding mainly because I can express my individuality and creativity in the programs I code for. Once I reach an advanced level for coding, I would love to code for robots and a variety of apps.”
We all have likely seen the stereotype of a computer programmer: someone sitting behind their desk, absorbed in their work, with lines of code seemingly out of the Matrix pouring from their screen. In some ways, coding is definitely individualistic, but in the workforce, it’s also very collaborative, usually involving many different teams meeting together to discuss the direction of a website or an app, the design, the function, the user experience, etc.
With this real-world model in mind, school coding clubs are incredibly successful for teaching girls to code. Wilson works with several schools in her district, bringing the girls together to learn how to code collaboratively.
“I get a range of girls in my classroom, but what they all enjoy about coding is that it brings them together across the cliche line, and they enjoy it because its something they all find interesting. They love the team aspect, they love the ability to work together and be creative together to build something.”
Allowing for collaborative learning takes the pressure off of the individual, and allows girls to problem-solve together. They can lean on each other for support, and the clubs become a safe space for trial, error, and feedback.
Showing them they can
When we asked Janat why it’s important to teach girls to code, her response summed up the situation pretty succinctly: I feel that many girls don’t find an interest in tech mainly because they haven’t been given the opportunity to enjoy and explore it for themselves. Learning critical tech skills now will help girls impact the technological world that is expected in the future!
Introducing girls to code in the classroom and through specialized programs like Hackergal not only helps them get a foot in the door but in discovering that they can learn how to code early on, girls can feel confident in their abilities to pursue computer science in their education journey or continue their learning at home in their own time.
To learn more about Hackergal and how our program helps teachers and girls learn to code, visit www.hackergal.org