Collage by Alex Hanson featuring an image courtesy of CoderGals
When I was in 6th grade, my mom found a drag-and-drop coding program called Alice. I started using it because it seemed fun. I was obsessed with iMovie at the time, so using code to make little animations with animals appealed to me. I played around with it for a few months, then I forgot about it. Two years later, I discovered Codecademy. I started to learn how to make a website, which was so cool. It was amazing to be able to create something that could be immediately available for anyone to see. However, I had the same problems during both of these experiences. I knew boys involved in robotics, but none of my female friends were interested in coding. I also didn’t have a role model or a mentor.
The root cause of this is visibility. Exceptional women in STEM exist. They’re not unicorns. They’re just rarely highlighted by mainstream media. When I was younger, I loved J.K. Rowling because I loved the Harry Potter series— I even dressed up as her for a historical figure fair. I had never heard of what I consider real wizardry, coding, in any books. I also looked up to Emma Watson and Miley Cyrus because those were the role models promoted to me. The icons that girls are presented with are generally celebrities, musicians, or actresses— not scientists or successful businesswomen. The funny thing is that these are all creators, but we are told to look up to creators of content rather than creators of innovations. This isn’t inherently bad, but if girls don’t have STEM role models to look up to, how will they become involved? It’s hard to be what you can’t see. Continue reading “CoderGals: An Origin Story”