At Code Club it’s our mission to get as many young people interested in coding as possible. Here Dan Powell, Programme Manager at Code Club, talks about his experience with inspiring girls (including his daughters) to get coding.
When I was 12, my parents bought me a Sinclair ZX81, and ever since then I’ve been interested in computers, moving on to an Acorn Electron and getting a B in my Computer Studies O Level. I didn’t pursue a career as a programmer, and got an arts degree instead. Yet after a few twists and turns, I became a digital sound artist, and so I find myself writing Python now and again. Doing that, alongside my work at Code Club, means that coding still plays a part in my day-to-day life.
Why am I telling you this in a blog about getting girls into coding? Because I have two daughters, and I want them to feel the same way I do about the possibilities that coding offers: even if you’re not a professional coder, it’s still incredibly useful to know how to write some code. However, I’m very aware that despite everyone’s best efforts, including here at Code Club, there still aren’t enough girls going on to a career in programming.
So what can I do about that? How can I help keep my girls engaged, and do my bit to redress the gender balance in the industry? As well as working at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, I also volunteer most weeks at the Code Club at my daughter’s primary school. The club was started by Wendy Armstrong, a freelance Full Stack .Net & Mobile Developer who shares my passion for getting girls into coding.
Female role models
There are a couple of things that we have done at my Code Club to try and engage girls. First of all, having an amazing female developer like Wendy is incredibly powerful. She is a huge inspiration to the girls who come to our club, proving to them that coding is not just for boys. One thing I know from working for Code Club is that girls often drop out when other clubs come along. That doesn’t really happen at our club, and I’m certain that it is because we have a great role model for them. So if you’re a female programmer, and even if you don’t code for a living, please think about volunteering at a local Code Club.
The second thing we do is to reserve half of the spaces in our club for girls, and when Wendy does an assembly at the start of the school year, she actively encourages girls to apply. These means our gender balance is 50/50, which is where we want it to be. We think there are fewer opportunities for girls to get into coding, and we believe that prioritising girls at our Code Code goes some way towards addressing this.
One piece of evidence I can offer is my eldest daughter — she loves Code Club, and she even runs drop-in Python workshops at the Raspberry Jam I help organise. I asked her just now if she’d be as into coding if it wasn’t for Code Club and having Wendy as a role model. She said she wouldn’t be, and that’s all the proof I need.
Inspire girls to code by starting your own Code Club
Do you feel passionate about getting more young people coding? By starting your own Code Club, you can make a real impact in your community. Find out more on our website www.codeclub.org.uk.