With technology invading every sector of industry, there is no doubt that coding is possibly one of the most important job skills of the future. But coding is also considered a STEM skill (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) which have traditionally been difficult fields for women. The difficulty is not that women are not capable or qualified, but rather that there is a major social stigma involved that girls will have to overcome in order to succeed as adults.
Traditionally, as soon as girls hit puberty, they become more and more reticent to compete with boys. Boys, in turn begin to become more shamed by being bested by a girl in any endeavor. As a result, girls are often afraid of appearing to be “too smart” or of being better in academics than boys. As a result, girls will often fall behind in fields where boys excel. In order for the women of tomorrow to be successful in traditionally male dominated fields, they have to be given the tools to succeed at an early age.
Girls Who Code started off in 2012 with 20 girls in a conference room in New York City. In 2016, more than 1,500 girls learned to code in 78 Summer Immersion Programs in 11 different cities across the US. Girls Who Code hopes to be more than just a summer program, however, but the start of a movement. In 2016, more than 100 female employees and 60 female interns volunteered to mentor and be role models to the girls. Girls Who Code believes “you cannot be what you cannot see” so just as important as teaching girls the skills they need, they also hope to provide female mentorship all the way up the chain.
In addition to the summer coding programs, Girls Who Code initiated a #HireMe hashtag campaign to get companies to support their alumni network. Just teaching girls to code will not be enough if companies are not willing to hire them. Silicon Valley is definitely taking note, with big names like Adobe jumping on board. Not only is Adobe in their third year of sponsorship of the program, but last year four full-time female software engineers at Adobe took a hiatus to teach in the summer programs. Levelling the playing field will take far more than just training, it will also require helping girls overcome the stigma of sometimes being smarter than the boys.