Let’s get girls excited about coding again!

Let’s get girls excited about coding again!

Categorized under: coding for girls

Although, it may be hard to imagine given the current gender disparities in computer science, women have not only played a major role in the development of the field but also continue to exhibit leadership and product development innovation in technology-driven companies of the future.

Amazing Contributions by Women in Computer Science

In the mid-1800’s Ada Lovelace wrote the instructions for the first computer program and introduced key programming concepts – capability to process letters & symbols in addition to numbers and the ability to repeat as series of instructions (loops). Grace Hopper also did pioneering work in computer science.  In 1952, she led a team to develop the first compiler for computer languages; a compiler renders worded instructions into code that can be read by computers. She is also believed to have helped popularize the terminology of a computer bug and was instrumental in the adoption of the programming language COBOL. The influence of women in computer science is not just historical, Radia Perlman invented the spanning tree protocol; this algorithm is an innovation that made the network infrastructure of the Internet possible.

Why did women stop majoring in CS?

Despite these great contributions, the following chart from NPR shows that in the mid 80’s, the percentage of women majoring in computer science started to precipitously decline. From the lack of marketing of personal computers to women & girls to the higher probability that families were much more likely to purchase computers for boys than girls, there are several theories as to why this trend occurred.

3 practical steps to re-invigorate girls interest in computer science & technology

Regardless of the reason, I think it’s key that we get young women excited about computer science again. Modern day leaders like Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Marissa Mayer (Google & Yahoo) and Ursula Burns (Xerox) show that women play a key role in the technology-driven innovations of tomorrow.  Below are 3 practical steps that we think will be helpful in stimulating girls interest in computer science and technology:

1. Highlight the important history of women in computer science and technology to give young women the context that they have helped advanced this field from the very beginning. These women can help serve as powerful role models and examples of what can be accomplished.

  1. Pioneering Women in Computer Technology – Great timeline of historical contributions of women in – Published by Carnegie Mellon University
  2. Famous Women in Computing – Visual timeline of famous women’s impact on computing – Published by Anita Borg Institute
  3. The 15 Most Important Women in Tech History – Great biographical information of women in technology history – Published by Maximum PC
2. Ensure young women are given the opportunity to explore technology-based activities (extra-curricular and in-school) within an educational environment to develop their interest and curiosity.

  1.  Sign them up for technology-based camps during the summer so they can explore different elements of technology
  2.  Register them for after-school programs so they can consistently practice solving problems using technology during the academic year. There are some great options that target both genders as well as those that are girl-specific including our own recently launched program, Ada’s Adventures.
  3.  Ask school administrators what classes are available in school that provide exposure to these important topics
3. Build young women’s confidence & fluency with solving common technology-based issues around the house.

  1.  When the Wi-Fi goes down, teach them how to re-start the router and explain how this helps re-establish the network connection
  2.  When your smartphone freezes, show them how to reboot  and explain how this process clears the short term memory and may help resolve the bug within the code base that caused the issue
  3.  When your computer shuts down unexpectedly, show them how to recover the open documents
  4.  When your smartphone Bluetooth doesn’t correctly pair with the system in your vehicle, guide them through the process of de-coupling and then re-establishing the connection.

About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the Co-Founder & CEO of Digital Adventures.