Made with Code Helps Bridge the Gender Gap by Inspiring Girls to Code
Most know that the gender gap exists, but when does it begin to develop?
In the realm of education, this gap reveals itself in the dwindling numbers of young women and girls that are interested in STEM. In the last thirty years alone, the number of women studying computer science in college has dropped from 37 percent to only 18 percent, a trend that may or may not continue depending on what we are willing to do to stop it. In order to address the issue, however, we must ask why these numbers have dropped so low.
According to an article published by The Huffington Post, the gender gap in math may start in kindergarten, and preschool teachers might have an unintentional hand in it. Although girls initially scored just as well as boys on assessments at the beginning of the school year, a gap had developed by the spring.
Researchers found that this gap was furthered by teachers’ different expectations from girls than from boys. Teachers consistently rated girls as lower achieving than their male counterparts, although their scores were identical on tests provided by the Department of Education. In short, the implicit and unintentional bias from teachers could sway girls’ interest in math-related fields in the future.
The remedy for this issue presents itself in one of the most formative time period for girls: middle school. Researchers have found that girls’ interest in computer science and coding peaks during middle school. These subjects appeals to them the most when they have an inspiring teacher who encourages the idea that coding is “for girls.” Having a female teacher also heightens this attraction for girls, while the gender of the teacher has no effect on boys’ interest in the field.
This interest in computer science and STEM-related subjects dwindles in high school, an issue furthered by the lack of positive role models and friends in classes. Girls simply don’t believe that coding is cool, a mindset that prevents them from pursuing their computer and coding-related interests.
In an effort to help bridge the gender gap, Google launched Made with Code in June 2014. Made with Code aims to help inspire girls to learn how code and build interest in computer science.
Justine Ezarik, known better as YouTube celebrity and vlogger iJustine, has been a constant collaborator and spokesperson for Made with Code. As the only girl in many of her high school computer science classes, Ezarik says she often felt like an outcast. Now, she spends her time encouraging girls to do what they’re passionate about.
All of these efforts to increase interest and close the gap seem to be bearing fruit, as evidenced by the results of the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress science exam. The scores exhibited by fourth and eighth grade girls were up by five and two points, respectively, and shared the same average scores as boys did.
In the end, the gender gap still exists, and in many places it will take more time and effort in order to enact the changes that women need. Through the efforts of women like Justine Ezarik and platforms like Made with Code, however, girls are more prepared to become innovators, researchers and inventors, and there is still hope for a future where girls can pursue their ambitions.
Jocelyn is a freelance writer originally from sunny South Florida, where she was the Managing Editor of Axis Creative Arts Magazine and a Senior Academic Mentor at United Mentors. She is currently a student at Emerson College, where she spends her time refining her writing skills when she isn’t preparing for the famous New England winters.