Girls learning how to code is not a new phenomenon. Recently, even Afghanistan got its first batch of female coders, who went on to design a video game aimed at protesting against opium production. But the truth is that across the world, programming is nowhere as popular among girls as it would need to be. Which is why it is important that more girls learn coding in today’s world.
To begin with, it’s one of the main ways (in addition to creating a conducive work environment) to address the problematic gender gap in coding. Even today, the number of women in STEM (for “science, technology, engineering and mathematics”) fields across the world leaves a lot to be desired. The US too, despite they are better than several other countries, hold a not-so-impressive record. According to a report by Catalyst, a global nonprofit organization promoting inclusive workplaces for women, just 25 percent of the American STEM workforce was represented by women in 2016. The same year saw a mere 20 percent women in the fields of software development, applications and systems software, and only 9.7 percent of women work as computer network architects in the US. This appalling gender disparity in computing can be traced to, among many other reasons, the fact that fewer American women are earning STEM degrees, with the exception of life sciences. For instance, in 2014-15, the overall percentage of women pursuing bachelor’s degrees in STEM was 35.1 percent.
It is clear then that girls, much like their male counterparts, need an early start in STEM or, for that matter, even STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths), which aims to integrate STEM subjects into various relevant disciplines. This, in turn, can be achieved by highlighting the many reasons for girls to learn coding.
Why Girls Should Learn Coding:
- Girls who learn coding are ahead of the curve; after all, the world of tech is shaping the times we live in and the road ahead. In today’s world, there’s the literate and then there’s the computer-literate; of the two, it’s the latter group that is more poised for success. From airplanes and cars to video games, space exploration and medicine, programming is now being used in every profession. Publishing this piece too needed coding. Brian Contos, whose daughter is a student at YoungWonks, emphazises that learning coding is a life skill today. “Like reading, writing and arithmetic, all kids should learn to code. My daughter doesn’t have to grow up to be a software engineer, but I think it’s important for her and all young people to know how to code and understand computers beyond the basics.”
- Women learning coding are better placed to keep pace with men in the workplace. Given that coding is among the fastest growing fields today, women who code can be part of a bigger job market and receive a higher premium for their work than in other fields. According to a Catalyst report, women in STEM jobs in the United States earned 35 percent more than women in non-STEM jobs and 40 percent more than men in non-STEM jobs in the year 2016.
- Girls who know coding can work at some of the biggest companies in the world, be it NASA or Facebook. You could do so by becoming a white-collar hacker, where you hack to identify security gaps in company’s website. So coding is ideal for girls who think big.
- Coding can open up a world of possibilities for you. It equips you to create your own website or app and build a robot or even a video game. If that doesn’t make you feel powerful, we don’t know what will!
- Knowing how to code helps with critical thinking and logical reasoning. “Coding encourages you to deal with large problems by breaking them down into smaller, more manageable ones. It relies on maths and logic to come up with innovative solutions to otherwise complex problems,” says Suchin Ravi, lead instructor at YoungWonks.
- The list won’t be complete without this reason: coding is fun. Imagine creating a game where you are teaming up with Wonder Woman and taking on Ares and Doctor Poison!
- Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all. How much does coding pay? Fact: A lot. Reports show that people who know how to code can make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. That’s like, more than McDonald’s pays.
It has been observed that one of the main reasons that girls don’t learn coding is the popular belief that they don’t have the same aptitude for it as the boys. Thankfully, this kind of “neurosexism”, which lays thrust on alleged neurological differences between boys and girls, is now being challenged more aggressively than before. Experts are pointing out how more often than not, this perceived intellectual disparity between boys and girls is the result of our social conditioning.
In a 2016 interview with The Guardian, Ally Watson, who founded the Melbourne-based organization Code Like A Girl, shares how learning programming is no harder than learning how to play a musical instrument. “When you start playing, you won’t be very good and you won’t be able to build apps and websites straight away and so, a lot of people are deterred by that. But form a band, find other coders who are like you and code together and create a study group. You practice together and it is fun and it is sociable,” she says in her interview.
As the parent of a girl coding student, Contos agrees that coding lessons for girls are very helpful. “Giving young girls early exposure to coding simply punctuates that there are a great many things they can do with their lives, including coding, if they choose. My daughter joined YoungWonks at age 10 and now at almost 13 years of age, she is already looking into universities and careers on her own. Wanting to pursue engineering, she is competing in robotics competitions,” he says.
Often, young women and girls turn skeptical about tech careers when they compare their skills to boys who have already been exposed through gaming and robotics. YoungWonks student Zoey confesses that once she knew the basics, coding became a lot more interesting. “I enjoyed the projects where I was able to program LEDs, sensors and robots. Over time I found that I could do some really cool things and that made me want to learn even more,” she points out.
With the rise of organizations supporting women in computer science — Girls Who Code, Girls Develop It are a few that promote coding for girls/women – it looks like there is light at the end of the tunnel, after all. A Catalyst report says that in 2016, women on corporate boards (16 percent) were almost twice as likely as their male counterparts (9 percent) to have professional technology experience among 518 Forbes Global 2000 companies. The year also saw women make up more than a third (40.1 percent) of scientists and engineers in the EU-28, an increase of more than 20 percent since 2007.
To sum up, one of the best outcomes of learning coding is how it can allow women/girls to bend the stereotype that males can do technical tasks better. Learning coding then is your way of changing the narrative. Like Zoey says, “Before joining YoungWonks, I had no idea how to code or how programming worked. Now I’m writing programs and building robots. So yes, I think everyone should learn coding, boys and girls. Given the opportunity to learn coding, girls cannot just be great at coding: they can do anything in STEM if they work hard.”