Breaking the Coding Stereotype
By Alexandra Few
Coding involves a precise set of instructions or scripts that are created for a computer to understand. It tells the computer to perform certain functions and if the code is correct, it will carry out the intended behaviour it was programmed to do. Similar to sentences in language, a code is a set of statements. Each of those statements direct the computer to carry out instructions that make up a program.
Coding makes it possible for computer software, games, apps, and websites to run efficiently. In fact, opening this article on your computer involved coding. Coding is a part of the computer science realm, and is thus related to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) field.
Breaking the Code
There are many barriers that women face in particular, in relation to the STEM field. According to Statistics Canada there has been an increase in female university graduates in nearly all fields of study, including STEM programs. However, women represented 66% of all non-STEM graduates, which indicates there is an under representation among STEM graduates compared to other fields. As well, only 23% of women graduated with a university degree in engineering, and 30% with a mathematics and computer science degree. Meanwhile, 72% of educated men had a background in these fields. Even in high school, women are less likely to choose STEM programs, despite having higher marks in mathematics.
There are many complex and systemic reasons behind these statistics. However, one of the main reasons is the gendering of occupations, which is evident when thinking of a “stereotypical male” job compared to a “stereotypical female” job. These stereotypes are conditioned within society, even from a young age, and carry on throughout one’s life, affecting interests and behaviours.
Women Learning Code
Due to the barriers that women face in this field, it is so important to fight against them and break these stereotypes. By learning how to code, it will not only combat against this patriarchal system, but it will help prepare women for careers related to this field. According to a survey, 92% of software developers are men, therefore women in the business and technology field can be put at a disadvantage. This is especially true if they do not learn skills associated with coding and computer science.
Children Learning Code
Learning gendered behaviour starts young. A study on gender stereotypes and intellectual ability found that by age 6, girls lump more boys in the “really, really smart” category, and turn away from activities that are intended for the “really, really smart” kids.
“These findings suggest that gendered notions of brilliance are acquired early and have an immediate effect on children’s interests”- Lin Bian, Sarah-Jane Leslie, & Andrei Cimpian
This demonstrates just how easy stereotypes can latch on to the ideas and behaviours of youth. If these gendered social norms could be demolished, and interest in STEM related activities could be piqued and nurtured through to the teenage years, significant change could be made to close gender gaps.
Specific ways in which STEM can benefit children include increases in critical thinking, exposure to the creative process, offers meaningful collaboration, provides a unique way to problem solve, gives hands-on learning experiences, and encourages girls to explore STEM fields.
Canada Learning Code has a mission to design and deliver technology education programs for Canadians, with an emphasis on reaching underrepresented communities in the technology sector. According to Canada Learning Code, digital skills are tools of empowerment. The organization makes sure that “all Canadians, particularly women, girls, people with disabilities, Indigenous youth and newcomers have access to the knowledge they need to prosper in today’s digital world”.
At Canada Learning Code, there are multiple programs designed with a specific community in mind.
The Ladies Learning Code program has workshops, courses, and meetup experiences that are open to adults of all ages and genders, but are designed to be a space where women explicitly are welcome to learn. According to Canada Learning Code, this program “offers female-identified and male-identified, trans, and non-binary adults hands-on, project-based learning experiences that are designed to give beginners the skills and confidence they need to become digital creators. Ladies Learning Code programs tackle the tech gender gap one positive, empowering, learning experience at a time.” The workshops available cover a wide range of programs from “introductory HTML & CSS, to WordPress, Python, Ruby, artificial intelligence, web design and more.”
The Girls Learning Code program “offers female-identified, trans, and non-binary youth ages 3-12 hands-on experience designed to inspire them to see technology in a whole new light. They do so as a medium for self-expression, and as a means for changing the world. Girls Learning Code gives the next generation of female-identified creators the tools they need to unlock all the possibilities of our digital world”.
The Kids Learning Code program offers youth ages 3-12 “hands-on experiences that will empower them to become creators, not just consumers, of technology”.
Coding is a very valuable tool to learn! Whether for an occupation or for leisure, learning how to code can be a useful skill to have, especially in our technological savvy world.