Teaching young women to learn coding will open so many doors in their future. “There will be 1.4 million jobs in computer science by 2020 – and women are currently on pace to hold just 3% of them.” This startling statistic from Reshma Sauhani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, highlights a distinct and very real problem in the tech industry today.
It’s clear to see that despite the unprecedented growth of the tech sector women are greatly underrepresented in the industry (currently making up only 30% of the workforce) and will continue to be so without some positive intervention.
Why is it so important to encourage more women to learn coding?
There are a number of reasons why this should be a concern for all who operate in the tech space. For one thing, if such a large section of society continues to be marginalized in this way it’s likely hinder the diversity and accessibility of future technologies and digital experiences. As Rebekah Cancino and Shaina Rozen, co-founders of Togetherly, suggest in their open letter to women in digital design:
“Until we have equal representation from women and minorities in our workforce, the products and digital experiences we design will never be as strong, inclusive, or accessible as they could be.”
What’s more, with increasing demand for digital talent and a marked skills shortage in the industry something needs to be done to fill these jobs. And encouraging women into the industry could well be the answer. Let’s face it; there are a lot of us!
But how do you encourage more women to learn coding?
Maybe you’ve seen the IT crowd, two tech guys shut away in a basement, their department manager a pencil suit wearing woman called Jen who knows so little about technology she actually believed the internet was a box with a light on top:
As funny as this show was, it is unfortunately a good representation of the common misconceptions surrounding coding and the tech industry as a whole. Namely, computer programmers are super intelligent, nerdy guys writing endless lines of incomprehensible code…and women? Well…they don’t really have a place in the industry.
In order to encourage women to engage with the tech industry we need to change the perceptions of what it means not just to be a programmer but to be a female in a predominantly male industry.
It’s a sad fact that by high school only 0.4% of girls plan to major in computer science, despite 74% expressing an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematical subjects during middle school. Many it seems are unaware of the careers they could go on to have, the amazing things they could create and the changes they could make in the world. It’s no wonder then that so few women find their way into the tech industry.
To change perceptions for women about what learning code could mean it is important then to start at a young age and show girls just how exciting it can be.
Be a role model
Although many schools are beginning to teach computer programming, the majority still don’t (only 1 in 4 US schools) and so it falls to people like us to lead the charge. Coding instructors, computer programmers, even parents; we can all play our part when it comes to inspiring young girls into technology.
Are you a woman in tech? Why not offer to speak at a school’s career day or become a mentor to young girls interested in technology.
Are you a programmer or coding instructor? Try setting up an after school coding club in your local community. Girls Who Code provide materials that can help anyone start a coding club.
Teaching young women to learn coding will open so many doors. Are you a mother or father of a young daughter? Encourage her to take part in a coding club or online course like Scratch, interact with her not just her brother when you fix a broken gadget, most importantly talk to her; tell her she can be anything she wants to be and show her all the amazing things she could do if she puts her mind to it.
Kate Farrell, one of CodeClan’s web development instructors, is working with schools to increase the number of secondary school pupils (especially girls) getting into coding as early as possible.