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Why Girls Should Code

bettina February 11, 2014 Computation Comments Off on Why Girls Should Code

BY SARAH SCHERRMAN
Photograph: Alamy

Take a quick second and stop. Look at the world around you. I dare you to find some sort of technology that doesn’t run with code. Keep thinking, it’s okay. While you are thinking let me just talk while you pretend to listen.

Code runs our world. Everything that we depend on has some sort of code hooked up to it to tell it what to do. It is a fascinating thing that has unlimited potential.  Hundreds of systematic programming languages made up of letters, symbols, and numbers create everything we see on the web and use every day, whether we are turning on a phone or operating a drone. Awesome, right?

But just as programming has become so critical to our economic system, our government, our social well being, our education, and to the website we visit constantly, the code behind it all has been programmed largely by white men.  This isn’t so awesome.  The programming field is lacking diversity across the board.

That is just a statement without a picture to put with it. So let’s get a picture of what the reality is. According to an article titled Wanted: Minority Game Programmers put out by Wired Magazine, only 4% of video programmers are Hispanic, less than 3% are black, and 80% are white. Video games area huge industry and it will only continue to grow. I was reading the article and there was on statement that really struck me, “White educated males are making video games for other white, educated males.” If you only take one thing from this article, take that one statement. That statement alone sums up what the programming and coding industry has become.

And because the programming profession has put out a male dominated stigma, it is taking a large toll on companies everywhere.  With this knowledge one might ask:  Why aren’t more women getting involved? Why aren’t more women realizing that they could help change how the world works and learns? But more importantly, what is driving them away?

From a young age, girls are pressured to do what society wants them to do and recently that does not include coding. Picture a computer coder in your mind. Did you picture a male? Yeah, me too. That’s what society expects us to follow.  Catherine Rampell wrote an article for The New York Times called, I am Women, Watch Me Hack. This article questions why more women aren’t going into programming, and describes the incredible benefits of the job, like the huge flexibility, the promising future, and the median salary is $80,000-$100,000. Yes, those numbers are correct. I now it is a lot to take in. So as I tried to swallow that lovely piece of information, I continued to read that only 0.4% of female college freshman intend to major in Computer Science. Rampell goes on to say that the media has tremendous amounts of impacts of the careers of females, consistently portraying white, educated male coders in movies—rarely are girls ever cast in such roles. We want to empower women to make them think they can do anything! So what is going on in those minds of theirs?

In a The New York Times article called, “Computer Coding- It’s Not Just For Boys”, a 16-year-old named Isabelle dreams of coding and plans her future as an engineer. Once she starts to mobilize that dream, one of her friends, a boy, says, “You’re a girl. You shouldn’t be doing that.” Comments like these are what are causing the self-esteem of girls to lower and questioning their judgment.

However, we can change the world by breaking the norm.

There have been positive reinforcements paving the way to change the stereotype. Companies like Google have also taken incredible steps to increase the number of women on staff. An article put out by CNN titled Google’s Quest to Get More Women in Tech states that Google has set up, flexible hours, and competitive wages, and on site daycares. Another organization attempting to drastically improve the number of women in coding is Girls Who Code, which provides girls with the equipment and inspiration to pursue academic and career opportunities in coding fields.  Reshma Saujani founded Girls Who Code, in 2012 with one goal in mind; to give girls leverage and technology to change the world.  The organization has spawned two others like it:  Black Girls Code and Girls Teaching Girls to Code.

This is a whole new world of development and opportunity. Don’t get me wrong; existing coders have done wonders in our world and created huge advancements in technology. Our devices, and the content on them, is in desperate need for more diverse points of view.  So have you come up with something that isn’t run on code? Yeah, me either.

 

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