National Girls Learning Code Day and why it’s important

Credit: Pinterest - Chic Geek

Credit: Pinterest – Chic Geek

The University of Manitoba in Winnipeg will host the next Girls Learning Code Day. This will be the third time that the city will participate in the event. Other cities throughout the nation will be holding the celebration simultaneously.

It’s not to be confused with Learn to Code Day, which is the adult counterpart. This one was started earlier and has garnered quite a bit of success with 88 per cent of learners responding that they were willing to attend a second workshop after its third annual run last year.

Both initiatives, however, were the product of Ladies Learning Code (LLC), a non-profit organization founded in 2011 by a group of women tech professionals. The fantastic four, namely Heather Payne, Laura Plant, Melissa Sariffodeen and Breanna Hughes, began with an Introduction to JavaScript Workshop, and since then expanded their reach and cause.

Due to the great feedback from attendees of the activities, Girls Learning Code was set up a year later in 2012 to cater to younger participants between the ages of 8 to 13. The co-ed program, Kids Learning Code, followed one year later to welcome young boys as well. The focus of this piece though, is the upcoming Girls Learning Code Day and the problems associated with females when it comes to coding and programming.

The goal is simple: to impart more passion and knowledge of tech to women and the youth through hands-on sessions, workshops and camps. The bigger question, however, is: why is it important?

The main problem is gender diversity in the field of tech. Research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research revealed that a lot of females avoid sciences at a young age. Furthermore, a study at Indiana University showed that 97 per cent of new female students prefer subjects outside of science and computing.

Moreover, a published study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found out that social and environmental factors, including negative stereotypes such as the belief that boys are generally better than girls in math and science, led to lower aspirations for girls and a ‘growth mindset’ is then harder to achieve. This in turn results to fewer females entering STEM courses.

Through an event like the National Girls Learning Code Day, girls at a young age will be encouraged to immerse themselves deeply in tech topics like coding. According to LLC, the participants will: discover a passion for learning about technology; experience the satisfaction from building technology; develop a fun, interactive game to share with their friends and family and; develop confidence as well as willingness to try new things.

Steve Jobs once said, “Everyone should learn how to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.” Thus, it is necessary for children to learn about coding. Considering that the world gets more technologically advanced each year, it’s already a sufficient reason to inspire more minds and hands to get into the field, including women, and everything should start early to build a strong foundation for more advanced learning later on.

Attendees of the event will utilize Scratch, which is a novice level programming language. To make it more engaging for young girls, the main method to be undertaken is game-making! In an enjoyable environment, girls can learn design principles, character building, audio integration and other basic aspects of developing a video game.

This is to mould potential future game developers as well, given that the field of game developing is also in need of more women. To illustrate, a chart by the International Game Developers Association has shown that in 2014, 76% of those working in the game development industry were men, while only 22% were women. The remaining 2% identified themselves as androgynous. Breaking down the statistics further, women only constituted 5% of the programming section, and the larger 95 per cent was comprised of men.

Girls and women have their own view and approach on things, so a greater balance of genders in the industry will lead to finished work of more depth and quality that will appeal to any gender. Even though numerous games are now available, ranging from titles that need dedication and time like a serious MMORPG to casual hybrids like a game show tie-up with Slingo, there’s still a huge rift between men and women within the field, especially in the creation side.

Although the Girls Learning Code Day will be about making games, the chosen process is just to attract more youth into the field of tech. Once the interest is there, it’s easier to expose them to more technical subjects. Lastly, even if the event is aimed at girls, their adult companions can join in on the fun, too! The National Girls Learning Code Day will be on Nov. 12, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (CST).