One of the things I’m becoming more and more fiercely passionate about – and honestly, one of the reasons behind my recent leap – is my firm belief that the tech industry needs more women. More than ever, more parts of our lives are powered by technology, yet women aren’t equally represented in the companies that create this tech.
Here’s a sobering stat, from this recent brilliant piece by two women working in the industry: While the tech industry is growing exponentially (and boasts some of the highest paying jobs around), women currently only make up 30% of the tech workforce. Rebekah and Shaina go on to say:
“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.”
These days, I’m as happy to be a tech-loving gadget hoarder as I am to be someone who wears neon pink nail polish and sparkly socks, but it wasn’t always the case. It took me a long time to realise that this is who I was; I was never in any way overtly discouraged – but I just honestly never felt that world was for me and it didn’t occur to me to do science or anything computer-related in college. Very little seemed aimed at me or relevant to my experiences. I would have thought that things would have changed a lot since I was teenager, but some insane stats sadly prove otherwise:
- According to Google, fewer than 1% of girls study Computer Science.
- The interest is there, but it gets conditioned out. In the US, 74% of girls express interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths in middle school (11- to 13-year-olds) – but by high school, only 0.3% of girls plan to major in Computer Science.
- Just 14% of executive positions in tech companies are held by women.
Empowering women to create the technology that will change the world is so important. There needs to be more women’s voices in these conversations. With that in mind, I’m sharing some useful links aimed at helping girls get into coding – maybe you have a little sister who you know would just rock at this; maybe you have a Lego-loving daughter who knows her way around the iPad better than you do; maybe you have a fun and creative younger cousin who will need a website to showcase her work someday. It can be an intimidating space for anyone, and there are a ton of not-so-subtle stereotypes out there preventing young girls and teens from becoming programmers. Luckily, there are also some wonderful encouraging resources too. Here are just a few.
Google’s Made with Code project: “Computer Science can make the world more beautiful, more usable, more safe, more kind, more innovative, more healthy, and more funny, but we need to help more girls find relevant ways to interact with it.” Just pick a project you like the look of, and dive in. Pic above: Google.
Rails Girls: Learn sketching, prototyping and basic programming. They ran free workshops in Dublin and Galway in 2015, so follow them for info on this year’s events.
Scratch: Designed especially for ages 8 to 16, with Scratch you can create interactive, shareable stories, games and animations.
CoderDojo: An amazing collection of free, volunteer-led programming clubs. I’ve heard they book up super quickly, but there are clubs all over the country.
Code.org: Their video (featuring Sheryl Sandberg, Jessica Alba, and Malala) is pretty inspiring. Love their Hour of Code concept too.
Jewelbots: A Kickstarter project, these open-source programmable friendship bracelets help teach girls the basics of coding as a way to do loads of fun things (such as lighting up when you have a message from your BFF or alerting you when your lift is on the way).
Like learning a language, coding needs to be meaningful and motivating, which is why sites and projects that speak directly to girls are so important.
Teaching more girls how to code is not the only answer and certainly doesn’t guarantee more women in leadership and decision-making positions in the tech world. But it’s definitely a good place to start.