Technology giant Google has kicked off the Made with Code initiative, which aims to inspire millions of girls to learn to code and help them to see coding as a means of pursuing their dream careers.
The initiative has the support of vice-chair of the Clinton Foundation Chelsea Clinton, Girls Inc, Girl Scouts of the USA, actress Mindy Kaling, MIT Media Lab, Seventeen magazine, and the National Centre for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT).
“Coding is a new literacy and it gives people the potential to create, innovate and quite literally change the world,” said Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube.
“We’ve got to show all girls that computer science is an important part of their future, and that it’s a foundation to pursue their passions, no matter what field they want to enter. Made with Code is a great step toward doing that.”
Google is also committing US$50m over three years to support programmes working to increase gender diversity in computer science.
The internet giant is piloting a project with DonorsChoose.org to reward teachers that support girls who take computer science courses on Codecademy or Khan Academy.
It is also working with the Science and Entertainment Exchange to encourage more female engineer characters depicted on family TV and film.
The investment of US$50m builds on the US$40m Google has invested since 2010 in organisations such as Code.org, Black Girls Code, Technovation and Girls Who Code.
Made with Code contains a number of elements, including Blockly-based coding projects and video profiles of girls who apply coding to areas such as fashion, music, cancer research and more.
It also includes a directory for parents and girls to find coding classes and events.
A problem bordering on a crisis
“When I received my first computer in the mid-'80s, women comprised 37pc of computer science graduates,” said Clinton.
“Today, despite ever-increasing job opportunities, it’s less than 16pc. We need to help girls see themselves as the next generation of coders, and, with efforts like Made with Code and the No Ceilings Initiative, make sure there’s full participation in technology’s future.”
Rather than being inspired, one of the fastest-growing problems in computer science is a declining interest among girls in the area.
"I think coding is cool, but most girls don't. Less than 1pc of high school girls see computer science as part of their future,” said Kaling.
“Made with Code lets girls see coding not just as something they can do, but something they'd love to do.”
"The numbers hurt,” agrees Lucy Sanders, CEO and co-founder of NCWIT.
“Women constitute more than half of the professional workforce, but only a quarter of the workforce in tech.
“It's a problem, bordering on a crisis. We won't solve it easily, or quickly. But Made with Code is a great step in the direction of reversing this trend, and getting more and more girls to use coding to accomplish amazing things by doing what they love.”
Women Invent Tomorrow is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland.
Girl coder image via Shutterstock