Dr. Aygul Zagidullina is a London lead for Google Women Techmakers, which is a programme that provides support and resources for women in technology. Aygul runs a Code Club at the Wembley Library in London, and she is passionate about promoting an equal gender balance at her club. Here she shares her advice on inspiring more girls to code.
We’ve all heard about the low numbers of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). According to a new study from the University of Washington, when given the chance to build a robot, six-year-old girls and boys have the exact same response — equal interest, equal confidence, and an equal amount of fun. Yet unfortunately, many young girls still believe that ‘girls aren’t good at computers’ and push themselves away from STEM.
Is there any way to resist these perceptions? What can we do to show girls that they can be just as good at coding as boys can be? As Code Club volunteers, we are all doing our bit to help girls fall in love with computer science. We all have ideas on how to improve the gender balance in STEM, and I wanted to share five things we can do now to push things forward.
1. Start as early as possible
Young people today are engaged with technology from a very early age. Teaching computer science as early as possible has the potential to turn these eager consumers of technology into unstoppable creators of it. At Code Club, girls can learn coding from as young as nine, but if your younger daughter shows an interest in technology, you can always download the Code Club projects at home and work through them together. Let’s turn little girls into coding superstars!
2. Challenge gender stereotypes
Children learn more during their early years than at any other time in life. To tackle gender equality, I make sure my Code Club is free of stereotypes that might have a negative effect on how girls feel about programming.
3. Find female role models
All grassroots initiatives that have successfully attracted and inspired girls have one thing in common — the presence of female role models. When the volunteers running Code Clubs are women (especially women who use computer science in their jobs), the girls attending have someone to be inspired by and something to aspire to.
4. It doesn’t have to be pink
Pink things are not needed to get girls excited about coding — being able to solve the issues they really do care about is what gets girls hooked on computer science. The Code Club projects are completely gender-neutral and give girls the opportunity to create games and solve problems in their own way.
5. Make coding fun!
While parents often worry about screen time, many educators now believe that using apps from an early age can be a great way to get girls interested in coding. Code Club is a space where children can learn an important life skill in a fun and exciting way that’s separate from the formal school curriculum.
I am extremely happy that girls have a fun and safe environment — all Code Club volunteers have background checks — to learn programming thanks to Code Club and the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
Inspire the next generation of coders
Do you want to encourage more young people, regardless of their gender, to get into coding? Then get a Code Club going in your school, or volunteer to help out at an existing club — head to www.codeclub.org.uk/register to find everything you need to get started today!