Thoughts on women and technology

by Nicola Mayer
Posted on 30 January 2014
read time: 2 minutes

For the past ten years I’ve worked in a digital agency, one I helped to found no less. And in these years I’ve often been a lone woman in a sea of blokes. Geeks tend to be male. But why is this?

I’m a linguist. I mastered French, German and Latin at school with ease, and added Russian to the list at university. I was equally capable at science and maths. So why then have I never been inclined or encouraged to learn to code, when it is to all intents and purposes writing language, something which I know and love? (Yes, partly it is age-related, I’m loathe to admit).

Hopefully things are changing. My 11-year-old daughter took to Scratch as quickly as her older brother a number of years ago; though she still she writes stories when he writes Ruby code in his spare time.

New pioneers

Part of this change is down to pioneers; people who see the world in a new light. Linda Liukas is one of them. This morning I happened upon an article about her amazing Kickstarter project to develop a children’s book to teach programming fundamentals through stories and kid-friendly activities. Amazing because the book is aimed at 4 to 7 year olds; even more amazing because in under a week she’s raised nearly $250,000 on Kickstarter when her target was $10,000.

Technology is a whole new culture and way of thinking

I love her playful, unorthodox way of thinking. Like me, she’s not a techie, and only learned to code in the last few years. From her experience she concludes: “Technology is a whole new culture and way of thinking”. Her book is born out of Scandinavian storytelling traditions, of Pippy Longstocking and Little My (of the Moomins), beautifully combined with her software experience at Codecademy and Rails Girls, the charity she helped to found.

Online resources

But what can we do for our daughters (and sons too, of course) in the interim, while Liukas’ ‘Hello Ruby’ book is in the making? Well, you could do worse than checking out Scratch, there’s also a growing number of coding-for-kids apps like Hopscotchand Kodable. And if you want a good old-fashioned book and want to start ‘em young, then Code Babies publishes a number of titles. My 14-year-old son has mastered a host of new technologies thanks to Liukas’ ex-employer, Codecademy. He also has a subscription to Treehouse for more in-depth learning.

What I’d most like to see is all schools and youth clubs introducing coding to girls and boys alike from an early age, and making it as normal to master code as it is to master the English language.

If you have any other relevant resources for girls (and boys too) learning to code, please do add them in the comments box below.

Related links:

Hello Ruby
Scratch Hopscotch
Kodable
Code Babies
Codeacademy
Treehouse

Code Club

Posted on 30 January 2014 - By Nicola Mayer
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