Rebecca Garcia, the 22-year-old co-founder of the first CoderDojo in New York City, says that learning how to code could enable children to overcome social and economic barriers and that in the quest to get more girls to learn how to code more female mentors and role models are needed.
Garcia was in Ireland recently at the DojoCon13 gathering at Slane Castle. She works with Ashoka fellow James Whelton’s Hello World Foundation and hopes to help grow the CoderDojo movement in the US.
Founded only two years ago by then-teen coder Whelton, the CoderDojo movement has spread to 26 countries worldwide and any given Saturday as many as 16,000 kids between six and 16 learn how to write software.
“I started coding when I was 10 and my sister, after realising I had an interest in computers, paid for me to go to a computer camp at MIT and that changed everything for me,” Garcia said.
“When I was young I thought coding was just something for engineers in dusty labs doing hard maths, but I realised that there are a lot of creative paths that you can take and for kids to be exposed to that very early is fantastic,” Garcia said.
“In New York we have the ability to reach out to kids in underprivileged areas and to expand their horizons and bring them along.”
She says there is a need for more female mentors from the technology industry to get involved.
“I think it is really important not only for more girls and women to be involved as role models but also to banish the stereotype of coding being a male-only activity. Getting the girls to learn how to create things in a fun, collaborative environment and have them come to the dojos more regularly will be key,” she said.
Women Invent Tomorrow is Silicon Republic’s year-long campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths