WHY WE *MUST* ENCOURAGE AND EMPOWER GIRLS TO CODE
I am a jaded, bitter, overworked, stressed out, sarcastic computer science major. And this past weekend, I spent four days in New York at Teachers Who Code: the Girls Who Code teacher training for their Summer Immersion Program. And I met the coolest, most fantastic and fabulous women who taught me to fall in love, once again, with my craft.
- •Coding teaches girls to be brave.See: Reshma Saujani's Ted Talk: Teach girls bravery, not perfection. When you teach girls to code, you teach them that they can be and do anything. They can be the next Beyoncé who codes. You teach them to persevere and to try, rather than to give up in failure of obtaining perfection. You teach them that everything we do and become is a process that requires failure, that in being imperfect, and failing and trying and trying again, they are so perfect.
- •When you empower one girl to code, you empower 10,000 girls to code.When a girl falls in love with computer science, she tells all her friends. And in turn some of those women will fall in love with CS. The number of girls who code grows exponentially every year. Girls Who Code (the program) began with 20 graduates in 2012, and will educate 40,000 girls in 2016z
- •Everyone else is doing it.This is ordinarily a dumb reason. But if you're not hearing about CS initiatives, you're not listening hard enough. It seems every other week some governor somewhere is signing into law an initiative forcing CS to be taught in middle schools and high schools. The White House has even gotten on board. cc: Computer Science for All
- •Women are being left behind.There are 600,000 jobs open in computing and tech. Last year, the US graduated 7500 women in computer science. Women, in not graduating into these jobs, stunt the economy. They stunt innovation and creation. And this can absolutely be avoided.
- •Coding teaches girls imperfection.When you learn to code, you stop deleting. You learn to comment out, to make mistakes and do everything and then learn from it when it doesn't work. You learn to try and try and try again and when it fails and when it doesn't compile, you learn to ask for help.
- •It teaches girls sisterhood.Everyone asks me, "you go to a women's college, but don't you find girls to be petty?" Girls are taught to hate girls. They are taught that they are each other's competition. Girls in computer science find solace in each other, as though they are on a journey together. There is comfort in being each other's support systems and they create relationships, real concrete relationships between women that extend beyond the classroom and workplace.
- •It teaches them to fight for their voice.Women in CS must be outspoken. They are often shut down by an industry that favors men or treats them as diversity candidates. And they don't tolerate it because with the work that they have survived and put into their degree, they won't waste an opportunity or a second to waiting for someone to tell them how they are wrong or not smart enough.
- •Coding teaches storytelling.Young girls have stories and they want to share them. Let them.
- •It makes the world a better place.Young girls have coded games to point out the brogrammer culture in gaming (Tampon Run), get people to the polls, and even come up with algorithms to help cure cancer.
- •Coding enables girls to create.See above, with these stories, girls are empowered to change the world around them. We often think of changing the world in some large, abstract, no one person could achieve way. And yet they can and they will through code.
- •It gives them crazy, cool role models.Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Sheryl Sandberg, Karlie Kloss. Women have always been crazy, cool in CS. Up until the advent of the PC, they were growing at the same rate as crazy, cool CS males. And these women have powered through, striven to be better and create more in an industry that didn't want them at all.
- •It creates crazy, cool role models.I am inspired every day by the women in tech that I meet. Inspired by their stories, their career arcs, their research. They are roboticists and programmers, theoretical scientists, everything. And they are humble and approachable and wonderful.
- •Coding teaches girls to be intolerant of doubt.There's no I can't or it can't in CS. Technology in our lifetime has and will continue to grow at an exponential rate. There is no impossibility.
- •It requires little to no work on your part.Yeah, it requires a little work to get them to sign up for the class or apply to a program. But if she falls in love with it, really and truly falls in love with it. Even when the going gets tough, she will be self motivated to do it on her own.
- •It's fun.This is the very baseline. Coding is fun. From your home computer, you can create the simplest or most complex apps or games, and this could be your hobby on the side from being Beyoncé but the fact of the matter is that having a programming language on your resume, understanding algorithms, being able to say "I am a girl who codes" will command respect and authority and will absolutely open doors, even if it's just a hobby.
- •ResourcesYou should check out: Girls Who Code, She++, Reshma's Ted Talk, Reshma on the Daily Show, The White House's Computer Science for All Initiative, Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In