Girls can code too – it’s about trial & error, not perfection

girls can code comic

Technology is everywhere, so we need more women who code creating the stuff we use and enjoy every day! 

The blundering misconception that “girls shouldn’t be academic”- let alone become scientists or engage with STEM activities – is gradually becoming less and less prominent. In fact, over half of all science graduates are women, according to the 2011 US National Science Foundation statistics (of 109,371 science graduates, 58,863 were women). In contrast, women attain only 18% of all undergraduate computer sciences degrees, even though they achieve 57% of all undergraduate degrees in the US.

Why are women performing so well in general academia but gaining so few computer science degrees?

“Girls don’t code,” says society. “Maybe some girls can draw, write – even be engineers – yet girls can’t and don’t code. Girls should conform to a standard, and when they fail they will be looked down on with contempt.” Reshma Saujani explores this fallacy in her TED talk video. Her goal is one million women in computer science by 2020, and in her TED talk she passionately asks us all to “teach girls bravery, not perfection”.

Watching her speak reminded me that, in this world, we’re seen as either all or nothing. We’re perceived as ‘nerdy’ or ‘stupid’. We are, apparently, either ‘ridiculously beautiful’ or ‘devastatingly ugly’.

This binary discrimination places girls under supreme pressure and it also thrusts them away from the holy trinity of coding: trial, error and improve.

When you write a piece of code, you don’t expect to solve its problems in your head all in one go. Instead you try something out, you spot the issues, and you improve on your code. It’s all about trial and error. That’s a problem when girls are taught to fear the notion of anything but perfection. In coding, immediate perfection isn’t likely and it isn’t even looked for. It does not compute.

Women need to be educated, and they need to be exposed to the same coding opportunities as boys. Currently only 29 states in the US (and the District of Columbia) offer AP computer science. This coincides with the problem that “internationally, evidence suggests boys have more experience of using ICT out of school, use it more freely, and consider themselves more capable at advanced ICT activities such as downloading and programming” (Eurydice 2005). On top of this, even today there’s still a possibility that women may fear being considered ‘nerdy’ if they begin to code.

If computer science can be introduced into formal education, it will help society to have as many people as possible exploring in our age of technology; someone could find a passion they never thought they’d had.

For myself, I’m delighted to say that coding has become one of my passions, and it’s taught me so much. It’s taught me that we learn from our mistakes, it’s shown me how to tackle problems efficiently and it’s given me a means to create things that I am proud of.

Want to try coding for yourself? With an inspirational abundance of coding platforms and internet tutorials, that’s not a problem. One immediate route into coding is to head to your local library or bookseller, or scour the web for PDFs on coding for beginners. You might need to download an IDE (an Integrated Development Environment to write your code with, which will make your life considerably easier) onto your laptop or computer.

You may find Mookychick’s guide to getting started in the world of programming useful.

Don’t want to get hardcore just yet? Can’t access a computer? No problem: numerous apps have been designed to teach you the fundamental elements of coding. I personally recommend Hopscotch, a free game designing app that will smash any illusion that coding is a tornado of impressive numbers. You can also check out Girls who code, who provide a multitude of courses all over the US. I think their very existence is proof that, yes, girls can code too.

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