Push for Young Girls to Code

Recently in the field of K-12, there has been a cry for computer science to be within the curriculum in not just high school, but elementary and middle school[1]. Along with the major pushes for an expansion across districts, there is another push for greater girl involvement in computer science. This has resulted non-profits, public, and university-sponsored introducing young girls to the field of computer science, most often, coding. These programs are working hard to brand computer science as girl friendly and child friendly.

Why is there such a push to get girls in the desk chair and in front of the computer? There is significant data on girls’ descending interesting in not just computers, but STEM subjects as they progress in age. Caitlin Kelleher stated in her article, “in the third grade, approximately the same number of boys and girls believe that they are good at math (64% of girls and 66% of boys)… By seventh grade, 57% of girls and 64% of boys believe they are good at math… 48% by the end of high school.”[2] Although Kelleher’s article is researching for the government, the background information she provides in the introduction has great insight into K-12 trends. The founders of these programs are recognizing that data and targeting the young with programs and advertisement that will fit well in the pink toy aisles. Google recently has initiated their new campaign “Made with Code”. On their website, girls can interact with coding while making a bracelet from a 3D printer, put beats together to make music, and “accessorize a selfie”[3]. The gender script designed page is full of pastel colors and cute patterns to feminize a typically masculine activity.

While many people would criticize the reliance upon tradition schemas of a young girl to introduce girls to coding, I do not think it is a bad branding and advertising technique. I think if activists try to make too great of a jump, trying to take on many issues, it will not have as great as an effect in bringing girls into computer science. I believe to truly make a difference in a problem it must be focused. For now, showing girls that they can make computer science fun is a great first step. If girls have fun, the interest will grow as they age, and the effects will hopefully be seen in a transformation of the industry.

[1] Westervelt, Eric. “A Push To Boost Computer Science Learning, Even At An Early Age.” NPR. February 17, 2014. Accessed September 17, 2014.

[2] Kelleher, Caitlin. “Introduction.” In Motivating Programming: Using Storytelling to Make Computer Programming Attractive to Middle School Girls, 1-18. Ft. Belvoir: Defense Technical Information Center, 2006.

[3] “Made with Code_Google.” Made W/ Code. Accessed September 17, 2014.

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