Get Girls Coding

Why is it so vital that we get girls coding?

There is a huge skills shortage in the tech industry in Scotland, with 11,000 new jobs being created every year. Over half of those can’t be filled because there just aren’t enough skilled workers in Scotland to fill all the jobs. This is why CodeClan was established – to help Scotland’s tech companies get skilled workers and to help people without those skills to learn and get jobs.

But this is only fixing part of the problem. Scotland will only fix its tech skills shortage by “fixing the pipeline”. Long-term we need to increase the number of Secondary school pupils choosing to study Computing Science and increase the number of young people studying at university and college and going on to get jobs in the industry.

Unfortunately many female Secondary school pupils don’t see computing or coding as part of their identity. They have been bombarded by images in the media associating computers with boys. The prevalent image of the male geek with poor eyesight and social skills is not helping us. But girls are also surrounded by toys and images emphasising the importance of looking pretty over being smart. Thankfully this is changing (in part to campaigns like Let Toys Be Toys) and more toys are being rebranded without “for boys” on them. Netflix even has a TV series and line of toys and dolls with the tag “Smart is the new cool”.

What does it matter if girls play with dolls modelling the catwalk instead of modelling bridges and towers with Lego? Well, it’s through play at a young age that children start to develop computational thinking skills – logical and problem solving skills that are hugely beneficial when young people go on to learn to code. There are many ways to help young people cultivate these skills though.

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How can we encourage young children?

Robots are a great introduction to coding for young children as there is a very visible outcome to producing a set of commands. Some of the robots available are OzobotOllie and Sphero 2.0.

You can see Ozobot in action (and see it following colour coded instructions hand-drawn in felt pen) in our Christmas video.

Another way for young children to learn some coding is by using a block-based programming environment such as Scratch, or Scratch Jr. If you’re helping a child with Scratch then the Creative Computing guide is a great way to set challenges to kids to make different games and animations.

The more we encourage young girls to see computing and coding as something fun and creative, the more chance we have that we can increase the number of young women taking computing at Secondary school (only 17.5% of Higher Computing candidates in 2015 were female), going on to study at university (currently 17.4% of undergraduate Computing Science students in the UK are female) and working in the tech industry (17% of the tech specialists working in the UK are women).

Tech is a fast-moving, exciting sector to work in with employers who pay well and are flexible to different working hours and arrangements. Hopefully more women will discover this and switch to a rewarding career in tech.

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Written by Kate, Instructor at CodeClan