Coding For Girls, What is Code Like a Girl?

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In our technologically driven society, it seems obvious that programming, also known as coding, is one of the leading professions of the future. Many of the most important devices and valuable products we use today require some level of programming. An entire industry has been built around personal computers alone and is now valued at over $300 billion, while the smartphone industry is valued at over $400 billion.

These figures go on and on, there are countless examples of the wealth and potential available in the tech industry. For young adults considering careers, the tech industry is a safe bet, but programming is particularly attractive as many jobs only require a bachelors degree yet offer so much more than their non-tech-oriented counterparts.

The expected job growth for programmers in the coming years is 21%, over four times the national average, 5%. The median annual salary, $105,000, is almost three times the national median salary, $38,600.

While all of these numbers are astounding in their own right, they all point to the one fact we can’t ignore anymore, programmers are the most sought-after professionals today. This massive industry is perhaps the best profession for a young adult to pursue if they’d like to build a stable, successful future. The perks don’t just stop there though, while programming is often described as tedious and exhausting, it is also highly intellectually stimulating and creative.

One question stands as the elephant in the room however, if this field is so alluring, why aren’t there more female programmers? These professional benefits certainly go beyond gender, so why isn’t this reflected in the gender breakdown of programmers today?

This question has many layers, however most deal with academic and sociological discouragement rather than inherent skill. Programming is seen as a masculine field, however enterprises like Code Like a Girl seeks to change those perceptions and bring women into the world of programming.

Why is Programming a Male Dominated Field?

While Code Like a Girl and other initiatives may champion supporting women in programming, a few of us might wonder why that’s even necessary. Just like all other university courses, computer science is open to either gender. Is it that women just aren’t interested in programming in the first place? History would tell us otherwise.

When computer science was in its infancy, and before it became a prestigious career, many programmers were in fact women. During World War II many women operated the first computational machines, and by the 1990s over 35% of programmers were women. It’s clear that women were not only willing to pursue careers in programming, but they were highly competent at too. So why then does that figure stand at just 26% today?

A startling revelation here seems to be that when programming became an esteemed career option for men, women were quickly phased out of the field. When the first computers were being built, much praise went to the hardware engineers, those who built the physical components of the machine. During these periods, software developers were seen as a secondary, and somewhat lesser, component of the process.

Programming today is seen as an intelligent, complex field, and rightfully so. However, with this change in narrative the misogyny seen in similarly esteemed careers soon followed. Even in our more equal modern society, undertones of this bias can still be seen and felt by prospective students of computer science. Without welcoming encouragement and role-models to set an example for them, young women may have difficulty imagining themselves as programmers.

How Code Like a Girl Helps Programmers

Code Like a Girl takes a unique approach to educating prospective programmers about the exciting world of programming, they target both women and young girls. Including girls helps sidestep many of the issues associated with more mature students who may have already internalized prejudices. Studies have shown that women do worse when they are told they are expected to do poorly.

For example, when told before an exercise that women are “bad at math”, women scored lower than they would have had they not been exposed to the stereotype. This shows the importance of battling stereotypes and how they can harm those affected far more than previously thought.

Unfortunately, programming is one of the fields most often thought to be a “male” field. While this may make it particularly attractive to young boys, it has the opposite effect on young girls. This is compounded by the fact that, because of this gender disparity, there are few professional women in programming that girls can look up to as role-models.

In typical information technology classes teachers and the majority of students are often male, naturally the content of these courses often caters to male interests. For younger students, this is the first place where they are introduced to programming in an academic setting, so this disproportionate representation may indicate to them that this isn’t a place where they belong. Code Like a Girl offers young students an environment where they can learn about programming comfortably and focus on the areas that interest them the most.

Mature students may also find this setting discouraging, but more often than not they have already missed opportunities to learn the basics of programming and are seeking classes to broaden their knowledge. This helps bring together programmers and professional women in other fields to create an enriching environment to learn.

Code Like a Girl also offer many ways to bring women into the tech industry, including internships and events for established women programmers. It is clear that the tech industry is not only a source of financial support, but an instrumental force in shaping our tools and the society of tomorrow.

One of Code Like a Girl’s key sentiments is that diversifying the tech industry is not only beneficial to women, but to everyone. Each one of us should have a hand in creating our future, because how can the world be fulfilling and enjoyable for everyone, when only a few of us get the opportunity to have a voice?

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