For two decades, female programmers have dominated the coding scene – FE News

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#EdTech and Closing the Gender Gap in Coding

A default assumption about the lack of gender diversity in STEM subjects, such as coding and computer science, is that it has always existed. Historical data shows that this is not the case.

Following the invention of the first digital computer by John Vincent Atanasoff in the 1940s, computer historian Nathan Ensmenger noted that computer coding and programming were seen as “routine and mechanical” activities and “jobs for women”. For two decades, female programmers dominated the scene. A notable example is Hedy Lamarr, the Austrian-American actress, who invented the frequency-hopping spread spectrum used in Bluetooth technology today.

In the 1960s, changes in perception led to an increasing number of men pursuing studies in computer science. According to data from the US federal government, the proportion of women in computer science and math professions has been reduced to just 27%. More recently, according to UNESCO’s groundbreaking 2017 report, Cracking the Code: Girls’ and Women’s Education in STEM”, only 3% of female students in higher education worldwide have chosen studies in information and communication technologies.

This dramatic decline could be attributed to the fact that the home computer was a “boy’s toy” in the 1980s, when young boys were often more encouraged to play on computers, while girls were encouraged to undertake less “scientific” forms of play. Fast forward to 2021, and that mindset still permeates the way we educate and play with younger generations. But change is now upon us.

It is crucial to create opportunities for young girls to be exposed to coding and other STEM subjects at a young age. It promotes gender equality in education and in the workplace, but in computing itself. A digital world made up of algorithms mostly programmed by men, and with increasingly sophisticated AI techniques, means that it is inevitable that we will face the problem of eliminating sexist coding and programming, in the years to come.

Girls’ early exposure is essential for future levels of interest and confidence, especially in the age brackets of 9-12, when early inclinations for future careers begin to form. In recent years, a plethora of public and private programs, corporate campaigns, and investment initiatives have encouraged more young girls to get into coding at all levels of education.

In 2019, the UK Department of Education provided £2.4 million in funding to the Gender Balance in Computing research project, a joint initiative of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, STEM Learning, British Computer Society (BCS), Apps for Good and WISE. The focus was on trial programs to improve girls’ participation in computing and to investigate the various barriers preventing girls from studying computing in school.

Inside and outside of school curricula, one obvious barrier is access to technology and the tools to teach it properly. However, the pandemic has caused global learning to migrate online. EdTech platforms and organizations have flourished, providing opportunities to learn coding and bringing the subject further into the mainstream – bringing awareness to girls.

As EdTech platforms continue to raise awareness, they are using innovative techniques to create a “gamification” approach to learning. It helps young students – boys and girls – learn practical computer skills, while having fun. Keeping it fun and encouraging meaningful learning is key to keeping girls engaged in coding.

Online EdTech platforms also offer fun and educational online coding lessons at home, inspiring young female students to get involved in coding in their spare time and outside of formal school programs, while maintaining the essence of the game. – a victory for parents too.

From learning to building apps to developing interactive games, showing young girls practical, doable apps and the wide range of other coding apps is essential to inspire creativity and ensure interest. supported in the years to come. The majority of future jobs will require some proficiency in coding. Therefore, coding should be suitable for young girls, their dreams and ambitions, whatever they may be.

Providing personalized, one-to-one virtual learning through EdTech platforms can also help break down trust barriers. Removing intimidating comparisons can encourage young girls to learn, study and play at their own pace, building self-confidence as skills continue to improve.

Where gender diversity is lacking, it is also crucial to have inspiring role models to inspire young girls to succeed. EdTech platforms and educational institutions are places where young female students can be inspired by leading female teachers in the industry, grow in confidence, and receive guidance on continuing their personal coding journeys.

Getting more young girls to code and bridge future gender gaps may mean changing the collective tone. Ironically, this involves borrowing some inspiration from the 1940s and appreciating that girls might just benefit in the long run from more focused screen time, not less.

Manan Khurma, Founder and CEO of Cuemath

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