This year’s TEDxUCLWomen conference theme, “Momentum”, refers to a notion of vibrating innovation and of achievements on the verge of blooming. It resonates a sense of social acceleration, implying the preparation for development and success, which all depend on future generations. What better way to embody this movement than considering girls, who are next generation’s women, and the constant evolving world of technology? This combination represents a key moment prone to transform the professional world, and in particular the social landscape of tech.
Many can agree that women and girls are underrepresented in several professional and educational sectors – in particular technology. Although the gender gap has narrowed on many levels, it seems that the old-fashioned distinction between “boy subjects” and “girl subjects” is still relevant today. Although university students should have the ability to decide on their own what they want to learn, it seems that they are still unequally encouraged to engage in different courses and projects based on their gender. Just like a 5-year-old girl could not be able to choose the Action Man figure between a Barbie and a toy tea set, many young women do not choose to broach on “boys subjects” as they do not even consider it as an option.
Although the gender gap has narrowed on many levels, it seems that the old-fashioned distinction between “boy subjects” and “girl subjects” is still relevant today.Code First: Girls is a social enterprise that aims to change this particular issue, by encouraging girls to learn how to code. It offers free lessons, through courses and events, to all female students and graduates. The idea of a girl-oriented project stemmed from the lack of female representation in Entrepreneur First, a graduate accelerator programme helping university graduates to develop start-ups. One of its co-founders, also co-founder of Code First: Girls, Alice Bentinck, spoke about these issues for TEDxUCL Women in 2013, under the brilliant motto that “Tech shouldn’t be a boys club”.
CF: G has significantly grown, attracting several young women to their courses. Ellen Horner, a first year student in Chemistry at UCL, is one of the many girls who enjoyed the opportunity to get more experience in coding: “I heard about CF: G on Twitter, before I’d even started at UCL. I think I had seen somebody else mention them and thought it sounded really interesting.” Her experience seems to fit with the goals of the project, which are to assure the comfort of women in learning, without feeling any doubts in asking questions. “I had a really great experience with CF: G. The teachers and ambassadors were really friendly and the speed of teaching was just right. If ever you had difficulty there was always somebody around to help.”
“I wasn’t hesitant to go to the classes because I knew everybody else in the class was a girl who was very new to coding. So I felt like we all had something in common.”
Nonetheless, some might be hesitant about the “girls” label in these learning opportunities. It is true that if “tech shouldn’t be a boys club”, nor should it be a girls club – but CF: G is in fact the right path towards enabling all tech savvy to prosper, regardless of their gender. It offers a helping hand for female students eager to learn about the tech world, but who need an extra little push to really dive into this exploration. The result of CF: G’s activities organised so far has been largely positive, as the majority seem to have benefitted from this particular environment. Many felt more at ease asking questions and interacting with other people in a welcoming all-girl environment. Ellen shared this experience: “I wasn’t hesitant to go to the classes because I knew everybody else in the class was a girl who was very new to coding. So I felt like we all had something in common.”
This innovative social enterprise is the perfect tool for motivating girls to engage in coding and potentially work in tech industry, alongside fellow boys. Female representation in tech is gaining momentum, as more girls are interested in coding. It is through initiatives such as Code First: Girls that we can ensure that everyone is included in the world’s future achievements.
More information about courses and events:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/codefirstgirlsgeneral?fref=ts
Alice Bentinck’s 2013 talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKiQl5WZQ5I