Schools Training

Coding for women: could I learn to program in a day?

11 FEB 2014

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This year, in case anyone missed the memo, is the “Year of Code”. The government announcement came last week, along with plans for all children to be taught to program computers in schools. I know next-to-nothing about coding, apart from the fact that far fewer girls than boys do it, and no one understands why.

So an invitation to learn to code in a day with a bunch of other women seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. Perhaps it would explain why there is such a gender gap in an industry that governs almost every part of our lives.The course run by Decoded, a digital training company, is typically offered to businesses that want all their employees, not just the developers, to understand the basics. I expected to go along, ask questions and make notes. Instead, I built an app that allowed me to trace a smartphone via geolocation. (I feel empowered just writing that sentence.) Here are a few more things I learned:

1 Girls don’t code. And when they do, they tend to come to it by a roundabout route.

Only 17% of the UK’s tech jobs are held by women, and in engineering, it’s even worse: just 8%, according to the ONS. Yet girls drop out of computer science well before they leave school. One study found that 83% of girls come out of school having learned no computer coding (compared with 67% of boys). Just 7% of all computer studies A-levels are taken by girls. This is despite the fact that the first algorithm designed to operate a machine was written by a woman, Ada Lovelace, in 1842. Education is not all though. Kathryn Parsons of Decoded studied ancient Greek and Latin before turning to code, while Robyn Exton of Geek Girl Meetup, who was also on the course, studied geography.

2 Coding is the future

In turning something that could be fun into a weird-sounding Year of Code, the government has made it all about the economy; one report estimates that by next year there will be 700,000 unfilled ICT jobs in the EU. But even more than that, it’s about power. Almost everything we do is governed by technology. In a few years most of us have already stopped looking at paper maps, train schedules and telephone directories, so it isn’t much of a stretch to think that soon computers will run our lives. Not having the skills to power the machines that run our lives leaves us powerless. Parsons says: “In no other area of our lives do so many women say: ‘That’s just not how my brain works.'”

 

Read full article: The Guardian