In recognition of Women’s Equality Day, we are reflecting on the computer science learning gaps and barriers to entry for girls. Computer Science (CS) presents a powerful opportunity for girls to pursue computer science, show them that they belong, and help them pursue their passions through coding.
CS education enables everyone to gain widely applicable analytical and problem-solving skills and fosters innovative thinking. While women have outpaced men in bachelor’s degree attainment since 2000, they make up a much smaller proportion of STEM degrees overall and a declining proportion of degrees, particularly in CS. This summary highlights the state of CS education in 2020 among girls in grades 7 to 12. It reveals persistent gaps in interest and pursuit of CS learning.
Why should women and girls learn to code?
Source: Girls are less likely to study STEM subjects at school and university, PwC, 2017
Women often struggle for equal pay and recognition in the workplace. The best way to shatter the glass ceiling is with a keyboard! Learning to code opens up more doors for women than you have ever imagined.
The few benefits of learning to code are:
- True Empowerment
We talk a lot about empowering women. However, what that means is usually not well-defined. Learning a practical skill like coding is empowering in the most literal sense. It helps someone achieve a sense of power and mastery over something that most people will understand. But you should never lose sight of the fact that when women learn SQL and other kinds of coding language such as Java, Python and HTML, they are more empowered than any generation before them.
- The New Literacy
More than a few people refer to coding as a new kind of literacy. And when you think about it, you can see why. Once upon a time, the ability to read was truly rare. Those who could actually read things like religious or philosophical texts quickly rose to power because they had knowledge and abilities that most did not.
Coding is now the same way. Most people don’t have this skill. Yet those who do form the backbone of our financial, educational, and cultural lives. In time, the ability to code may become as common as the ability to read. But right now, women have the chance to seize this power and propel their life and career to new heights.
- STEM Opportunities
We have danced around the idea that coding opens many career doors. Now, it’s worth answering the question: why is coding the key to such doors? The answer to this is STEM. More and more jobs now involve STEM on some level, and this has been a double-edged sword for consumers and occupations.
For example, we all benefit from automation. Small technological improvements add up to save time and make our lives a bit easier. But this comes at the loss of certain occupations.
When a store gets more automated registers, they typically let a few of their cashiers go. But do you know who has job security? The person who can fix and maintain the automated registers!
STEM touches more industries than we ever could have guessed even 10 years ago. Coding brings women into the world of STEM and all the opportunity and job security that comes with it.
- Becoming a Role Model
Nothing helps women like other women. And by learning to code, a woman can easily become a role model that other women and girls need.
Over the years, many cultural forces have discouraged women from STEM industries. While our collective culture has gotten more progressive, many women still don’t know what they can do until they see other women doing it. Just think: by learning to code, you may positively impact an entire generation of women!
- Diversity and Opportunity
Another reason for women to join STEM industries? In short, STEM desperately needs more women! The number of women in STEM industries has actually steadily decreased since the 1990s. The situation has created a grim irony: despite the fact that women are more likely to go to college than men, men are still much more likely to pursue STEM degrees and land STEM occupations.
Coding is a gateway to additional STEM-related disciplines. Women who learn this skill early are uniquely positioned to join the STEM occupations and reverse the current gender gap trend. Also, while it sounds cynical, the current lack of women in STEM has created a number of unique opportunities for female applicants. Many job postings specify that women are particularly encouraged to apply.
Celebrating Female Coders that Influenced the World
A mathematician who is considered the Founder of Computer Science.
A mathematician whose calculations were critical to ensuring the success of Apollo 11 and other missions to space.
A visionary working mother invented the modern concept of software. Became responsible for the onboard flight software of the Apollo project by 1965, and as she and her colleagues were programming the spacecraft.
A multiphasic computer scientist and luminary in the US Navy. Hopper wrote the world’s first computer programming manual.
Founder of Black Girls Code, a nonprofit that teaches programming to young girls of colour.
All of these women, and most of the famous women in technology, have one thing in common: they had to overcome obstacles to reach the same opportunities and level of credibility as men. If we evaluate what’s affecting gender diversity in tech, the main obstacle has been and continues to be the lack of access to STEM education.
The best coders have various skills and abilities, like problem-solving, logic, imagination, empathy (putting themselves in the user’s shoes), excellent communication skills, multitasking, aesthetic judgment and design skills. Stereotypically, many of those traits are female attributes. It’s also necessary for programmers to collaborate, brainstorm, and compromise.
At Quantum Space, Learning and Innovation Hub, we have 33% of girls doing coding. We urge parents of girls to join our growing team of girl coders and break the society’s norm of considering girls after boys and prove that girls can be great examples as well when it comes to technology.
“Women and girls are naturally agents of change. If we teach one girl to code, she will go on to teach more – we’ve seen this in our own programs and workshops around the country.” – Kimberly Bryant