With Programs Like Codecademy, Women Are No Longer Accidentally Excluded From Learning Technology
“We’re hoping to make everyone literate about the basics of programming while creating a generation of new and talented programmers” Zach Sims, co-Founder of Codecademy told me in an email.
By Blake Landau (Blogger, Artemis)
Codecademy, only a few months old, hasalready gained traction with over 500,000 signups to date. Codecademy was nominated by the Crunchies awards as “Best New Startup” and even Mayor Bloomberg of New York City has given Codecademy a pledge.
You might have seen a flood of tweets in your tweet stream about Codecademy. Can you imagine a world in which learning how to code is so popular with girls, there’s already an “anti” movement established?
We wanted to get feedback from a few different female thought leaders in the field to get their perspectives on Codecademy. Here’s what they had to say about being a female coder, and how Codecademy might change the game for the next generation of women.
Black Girls Code
Bryant, an electrical engineering student in college said when she was younger she was “discouraged by the lack of other women in the field as it related to having a common peer group.”
Programs like Codecademy could help to democratize access to learning to code, particularly for women. Bryant said, “I think the expectations for women and people of color to perform well these fields is actually low and as a result many decide not to pursue this field of study which is unfortunate.”
Bryant is inspired by Douglas Rushkoff, author of “Program or be Programmed” and his belief that we need to build a computer literate generation. She said, “I believe it is incredibly important for women and people of color to become the builders and creators in technology. In order to do so, we need to know how to code or at least know the language of coding — what I like to call ‘code speak.’”
Bryant feels it’s important to “encourage girls and people from diverse backgrounds to study these sciences beginning from a very young age.”
Ladies Learning Code
Payne told me what it was like when she was in school:
“I didn’t know anything about programming, and as a kid, I didn’t have access to anyone who did. That being said, I think parents and teachers often accidentally exclude girls from technology-related learning experiences, usually because they assume girls won’t be interested. It can be as simple as a parent showing their son how a lawn mower works, and not their daughter. Over time, this can send a message. Our ‘default setting’ should be that all kids like learning about technology, and we should raise both boys and girls under that assumption.”
Payne is excited about Codecademy, and believes their platform is positive in its accessibility. She says that anything that supports digital literacy is a step in the right direction.
When asked if she ever felt like she was treated differently because she was female, she said:
“I’ve definitely felt out of place in male-dominated environments, like at startup or tech-focused events in Toronto. And that’s the scary part. I mean, I don’t get intimidated very easily – if I’m feeling out of place, it’s no wonder so many women are staying away. Whenever I catch myself feeling uncomfortable, though, I try to remind myself that I’m probably the only one who’s thinking what I’m thinking (“What’s she doing here?”), and then I commit to “acting as if” – acting as if I feel like I belong. Usually it doesn’t take too long before I don’t have to act anymore.”
Payne recognizes that knowing how to code is empowering. She told me in an email that for women who want to be entrepreneurs or freelancers, “the benefits are obvious”. She said that if you know how to code, you can launch your own website saving you money and time.
It never hurts when you don’t have to rely on other people for this kind of work, particularly if you are managing a project like a website overhaul. Payne said that for women in corporate roles, knowing how to program can give you an edge, especially in functions that are becoming more technical every day, such as marketing.
She said, “If you can code an HTML email newsletter for your employer, it means they don’t need to outsource that work – saving them money, and making you an even more valuable team member.”
Codecademy Democratizes Computer Literacy
Cynthia Lane Schames is one of the many users who signed up for Codecademy. Schames who was most recently the Director of Sales & Business Development at Toutapp, told me she signed up for Codecademy because she wants to enrich her sales career. She didn’t take CS courses as a younger person, and attributes this to discouragement:
““I never took any CS classes, but I definitely felt that males were given preferential treatment by teachers in high school, and then in college I was somewhat discouraged from taking certain science courses by my guidance counselor. I don’t want to say 100% that it was because of my gender, but it definitely wasn’t due to any lack of aptitude on my part.”
For the many people like Schames, Codecademy offers another chance to become literate in code.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Blake Landau is a blogger, speaker and consultant living in the San Francisco. She’s worked with brands such as Verizon Wireless on social media, branding, public relations and marketing. She started her career in customer strategy building Customer Management IQ, a social networking site and online business publication. She loves her running and book clubs. Blake blogs at What’s Your Story?. Follow her on Twitter at @BlakeLandau.