I am a woman. I am a mother. I am an technology entrepreneur. I am a coder. I am not good at it, but I know enough to be dangerous and have an intelligent conversation with my development team. I am self-taught and I strive to get better everyday. I am sharing this because I am exhausted by the conversation of why we can’t get girls into coding. We have been talking about this for what feels like forever and the best that we can do is come to the same conclusions over and over again: get them exposed to programming at a younger age, focus on programs that can bring girls together for support, find them mentors, and use games as a gateway to programming. This conversation is not yielding results. The numbers are dropping and it’s time to try something new.
As a woman in technology, and a mother of two, there is nothing more frustrating than knowing that my daughter and her friends are surrounded by a media-frenzied world that does everything in its power to reinforce success as a function of celebrity, glamour and wealth and not the power and beauty of science, technology, engineering and math. No matter how hard we try, we have yet to overcome the realities of what computer science, and STEM in general, means to the majority of young girls in their everyday lives: nothing. Maybe if Rapunzel had built a beacon app, or Boots was a robot, or Disney fashioned a story about next-generation fairies built by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal (trust me, she should have her own character), our girls would grow up with different perspectives and aspirations. But that is not their reality. We simply can’t ignore the impact that media and celebrity has on what our girls, and boys, are taught to believe is success. So why not use celebrity to really entice our young women into coding?
Ask yourself: what if Katy Perry learned to code? Selena Gomez? Lady Gaga? Or Michelle Obama? What if Glamour.com lead with the story, “Model Diet: How Alessandra Ambrosio Built Her Own Healthy Diet App”? What if Beyoncé partnered with MIT to build a branded version of Scratch, creating a place where it was cool, powerful and beautiful to code? What if she added #BEYCODE to her sphere of influence?
If we really want to get girls to code, then show them that everyone can code. We need to find creative, engaging ways to get girls to understand that Ruby is more than a gemstone, that Java isn’t coffee and that Python is not something to run from. Coding is not only for nerds and geeks or “super-smart people”; coding is for artists, musicians, politicians, athletes and movie stars. Coding is for everyone.
I am not important enough nor am I famous enough to impact hundreds of thousands of girls but there are some amazing women out there who have the power. I believe that if we want to get girls into coding, we need to give girls role models that grace the covers of magazines, TV screens and mobile screens 24/7. If we want to get girls into coding, we need to teach their moms as well (Why not Oprah’s Code Club?)
So here is my challenge to all the influential ladies out there: unlock your own potential and show girls everywhere that the ability to code is within all of us. Be able to say to the world #ICanCode.
Lydia Loizides is serial entrepreneur, technology provocateur and relentless challenger of the status quo. She spends her days as Founder & CEO of Talentedly, a technology company on a mission to help people grow from good to great at work (technology + people = amazing results). The rest of her waking moments are spent running, reading, learning, and trying to prove that the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42. You can follow Lydia @lydiaNYC @GetTalentedly, on LinkedIn and the Huffington Post.