Girls Who Code: Closing The Gender Gap In The Computer Science Field

Maya Hogan, Staff Writer

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 From a young age girls are taught to be perfect, always have straight As, never act “unladylike,” and to leave the recklessness to the boys. It is expected for boys to do, then think after, while girls prove to be quite the opposite;the ways both boys and girls are supposed to act are directed from a young age, carried into adulthood, and further dragged into their career pathways. 

Reshma Saujani, the founder of the non-profit organization, Girls who Code, is working to change this by teaching young girls how to computer code in order to give them a leg up in the real world; by sparking a drive to learn about technology in the minds of children, the gender gap in computer science careers will become smaller as the numerous generations of coders are released into the world.  

There is a desperate need to change the way both boys and girls are expected to do or act, by changing the stereotype th
at boys have to be reckless while girls must be perfect, the fear of failure in young girls will decrease and their interests will change. If driven in the right direction their mind sets can be formed to want to learn more about coding and programming. Girls can be shaped at a young age to love technology just as boys tend to. This will influence the career pathways they choose as adults, and help change  the stereotype of a typical computer programmer.

According to Saujani, the start of this movement to a gap free world in this particular field began through her time as an activist, “I came to this movement through my work in activism- In 2010, I quit my job and I decided to run for Congress. And then I lost. Badly. But that’s how I started Girls Who Code. During my first campaign, I visited a lot of New York City public schools, where I saw computer labs full of boys learning to code. No girls in sight. That pissed me off, and I wanted to do something about it.”

“I didn’t ask anyone for permission. I didn’t even bother to learn how to code. I just went for it. I called up a friend who lent me some office space, and that summer we brought 20 girls from New York City together for seven weeks and taught them how to code. Five years later, we’ve taught 40,000 girls in all 50 states—effectively quadrupling the talent pipeline.”

If you ask someone to tell you about the role gender has played in the history of  computing and programming, most likely the response you’ll get will be about how the important innovations and contributions to computer science have been brought by “extraordinary men” such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, or Mark Zuckerberg. The only problem with this idea that men were and are the “creators” of the computing world, is that it could not be further from the truth. Women get almost no credit for their work in this field, despite that at one point, the entire computer industry was dominated by women.

Computer design, maintenance, and innovations in tech were traditionally female careers during the 40s and 50s. Women even aided the production of war machines which were computers that specialized in decoding enemy communications. The social structure of the computing industry switched gears and men began to take over almost all aspects of computer science, and the stereotype of a lazy man sitting at a computer all day in his basement was born as the way programming was viewed.

For example, an anonymous source claims, “At Dell EMC women are not hired to work in the actual computer science field, they are typically hired for management and marketing positions.” The reason behind this is solely because of the mass overpowering of male figures in the tech field; Although women make up some of the work force in the management and marketing branches, there is a huge need for women to bleed into the programming, design, continuity, and innovation aspects as well.

One of the largest gender gaps is one with the most high demand and high paying careers. The computer science field is typically run by the male figure, and women are left behind, but Girls Who Code is dedicated to changing things up and evening out the playing field for both genders. Currently, women possess only 18 percent of this workforce when they should at least control half of it.

As a way to inspire people to learn how to code, Reshma has published 3 main books called Women Who Don’t Wait in Line, Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World, Friendship Code #1, and she is in the midst of writing Brave Not Perfect. According to the founder of Girls Who Code,“I have had so many girls say to me,’I’m the only girl in my computer science class. And after a couple of weeks, I didn’t want to be the only girl in my computer science class.’ So part of why we wrote these books was to change what a computer scientist looks like, to make it fun, to make it interesting. And the only way you change the misogyny and sexism that you’re seeing in the Valley is pure infiltration. Numbers, numbers, numbers. You need to create a critical mass. And I think that we can do that. I think we can do it in less than a decade.”

 Reshma Saujani is in the process of slamming the gap shut as she continuously travels from place to place giving speeches to spread the word, as well as continuously writing books to take over the shelves of bookstores and schools everywhere.

I have grown up adoring my aunt, Reshma Saujani, she has always been my number one supporter, she has taken care of me since before I can remember, looked out for me at times when I needed it and even at times when I didn’t. I spent my summers with her traveling to various places as she gave speech after speech about her program and the books she has written in an attempt to spark an interest in coding in girls of all ages.

From the time I was about 10, I really started to get into everything that she does. I began to understand how her program works, why she is doing it, and how she got to where she is today. This summer, my aunt took me to the National Governors Association where I participated in a Girls Who Code hackathon which was judged by all the governors of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.

Many groups of girls participating in the computer science  terrain competed for the win… as it turns out, I won and my group and I were awarded with the Best Startup idea which gave us drive to continue down the path of using critical thinking to fix,improve, and innovate. Because of my aunt I have been exposed to every aspect of the real world, I have met so many incredible people, and the opportunities I have been granted are tremendous. She is the most inspirational woman I know and the work she is doing will impact the world in more ways than I can explain.

The startup idea consisted of creating an underground GPS system using infrared rays to detect heat from railroad systems below the surface and connect this to an app which tracks the exact location of the train and provides the quickest alternative, if it is running late, to get to the designated location.

Using specially designed “Zip-Cars” that are all electrically run, people of all classes including the unemployed can afford to drive without paying for gas. While driving smart Zip-Cars, the driver has the choice to carpool anyone in the area that is signed up for the app as they are; the amount of people and the distance driven add up to award the driver points, at a certain number, a free smart Zip-Car can be achieved. The idea ultimately aids the efficiency of transportation in the infrastructure category, includes the cars of the future which are electronically run, and aids people who do not have a job but have to sustain a life for them and their family.

With the helping hand of numerous other organizations and tech companies, Girls Who Code has gained a leg up in the business world and is using this leg up to transform our world one girl at a time. The clubs at schools, summer programs, and the books that feed young girls information about computer science are the driving force of a wildfire that has yet to occur. Young girls are being sparked with ambition to become something and to get involved in programming , graphic design, innovation along with countless other things, and thousands of these sparks are creating a fire that will burn throughout the world and ultimately obliterate the gender gap that stands today.

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Girls Who Code: Closing The Gender Gap In The Computer Science Field”

  1. Thor on December 7th, 2017 10:58 pm

    I find it funny how you talk about some of the big guys in the field, but you deliberately ignore the fact that the first programmers, and the people that basically founded the field were all women. The team programming the ENIAC was made up entirely of women (they were the first to actually program a machine, and came up with the idea of programming languages), and the person that finished Charles Babbage’s blueprints (who was also the first to recognize that computers have more potential than for use as calculators) was none other than Ada Lovelace, a woman, is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in the history of computers as well as the first programmer. Also, you said that the only reason that the gender gap exists in computer science is solely because of the male presence in the field, but you give absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support that claim in any way shape or form. Never mind the fact that it directly violates federal law to discriminate based upon gender in the work force. One is legally obligated to take the company to court if they do this (This extends to race as well). I personally am disappointed that our school actually believes this, and is willing to report on things that have no evidence to support it (I forget where exactly it is written, but whatever is published by the school is what the school believes). On a lighter note, congratulations on winning the hackathon, and that’s awesome that your aunt is encouraging people to get into the field even if they’re all women.

    [Reply]

    aalbergaparisi Reply:

    Thank you so much for your insight, and for reading The Central Scene. We hope that you continue to read and enjoy our publication. Have a glorious day.

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