Google Closing Gender Gap With Coding Initiative For Girls

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Google has just put their money to good use: investing $50 million in the future of girls! The popular search engine and tech company started by Silicon Valley geniuses Sergey Brin and Larry Page, just launched as exciting initiative called ‘Made with Code‘ aimed at getting young girls excited in technology and coding.

So many of our day-to-day technologies are made with code, and it only makes sense to educate the future generations on what is most likely going to be a popular career choice for them. But the way things are going with the gender gap in America, it seems we need to make an extra special effort.

Technology is the fasting growing industry in the US today, and there are currently over 100 million unfilled STEM jobs across the country, according to data released by Verizon in their girls STEM campaign ‘Inspire her Mind‘. Women hold roughly only 25% of stem jobs in the US, which, is a figure that Google hopes to change with initiatives like ‘Made with Code’.

Actress and producer Mindy Kaling joined political daughter Chelsea Clinton and Swedish duo Iconopop for a fun-filled informative day in New York where over 150 tween and teen girls attended.

Google also partnered with Girls Who Code and Girl Scouts to engage a community of girls to learn what types of careers and futures they can have by learning to code.

“Right now, our voices aren’t being heard,”said Chelsea Clinton, who also added that only 12% of Computer Science degrees in America are held by women. “I’m not thrilled we’ve lost ground to boys and men.”

“You’re at the front lines of helping to change [things]. … We do need to build a movement,” she urged the crowd of girls.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than one percent of high school girls think that they have a future in computers and code.

“We need a lot more kids to come to computer science,” Google X (Google’s research lab) vice president Megan Smith told the group of girls. “These are incredibly fun jobs!” Megan said coding is like learning how to read and write, i.e, it is the language of the future.

“We found out that one of the things that happens with high school girls is they sometimes get discouraged from doing code because no one is encouraging you. Nobody’s telling you the value … nobody’s telling you why it’s so impactful on the world. You couldn’t see a lot of heroes.”

We had the chance to interview a next gen female coder from New York, Laura Willson who has been involved with Girls Who Code and their summer coding programs. Her passion for coding showed how important it is for more schools to adopt a formal computer science program as part of the curriculum, not an optional choice.

Mindy Kaling adding humor and star power to the event, talking about why she knows tech is an important industry that needs more girls.

She said if she could code, she would make apps like “Shazaam for Perfume” and the “What’s His Deal?” app, “that takes a picture of a guy and tells you what’s his deal? Married? Single? Weirdo? What’s his car like?”

On a more serious note, Kaling added that coding would help give the girls an edge “to help you to succeed in all of the awesome stuff you guys are going to accomplish.”

“I think coding is cool, but most girls don’t,” actress and comedian Kaling said in a statement. “Made with Code lets girls see coding not just as something they can do, but something they’d love to do.”

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It seems Verizon and Google aren’t the only companies who see girls in tech as a future booming market to sew up. Mattel wants in on the conversation and is releasing a new line of Barbie with a career like never before: tech entrepreneur Barbie. For a toy that has had over 150 careers, here’s hoping this one sticks!

The doll was designed in an effort to engage young minds to take up careers that are normally seen as “boys jobs”. With other brands now available to challenge the stereotypical “pink princess” mold, such as Goldieblox which is all about teaching girls the basics of engineering, it’s no wonder that traditional stalwarts like Barbie have had to change their image to suit the shifting cultural conversation.

“Barbie is uniquely equipped for this challenge because she’s a trendsetter,” Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, told The Huffington Post. “If she can bring the next generation of girls with her on her journey into entrepreneurship — the whole landscape will change.”

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Reshma was one of 10 female entrepreneurs that Mattel included in their inspiration list when designing and launching the new Barbie.

“This year Barbie is once again breaking through plastic ceilings and inspiring girls to follow their dreams. The 2014 career of the year doll is Entrepreneur Barbie. To celebrate her newest career, Barbie is honoring special women entrepreneurs to help start a conversation for girls everywhere, reminding them that — “If they can dream it, they can be it – anything is possible!” says the website.

With previous studies showing that Barbie’s extensive range of careers is actually a deterrent to girls and their career aspirations, we can only hope that the timing is right for tech Barbie, alongside more credible names who will bring some serious gravitas to the girls in stem push.

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CEO of Youtube and longtime Google employee Susan Wojcicki said in an official blog post that the idea of getting girls interested in coding was a no-brainer for someone like her who is raising a young daughter who understands technology easily, but doesn’t recognize what a lucrative and exciting career it could be.

“I decided to launch a campaign at home — connecting my daughter to coding resources, increasing my encouragement and introducing her to other girls interested in computer science. It wasn’t always easy, but it’s already showing results. She recently started learning basic computer languages and using code to do projects at home,” she writes.

“Nowadays, coding isn’t just a skill useful for working at a tech company; engineering isn’t just for engineers. Interior design. Medicine. Architecture. Music. No matter what a girl dreams of doing, learning how to code will help her get there.”

By the year 2020, there will be 1.4 million programming-related jobs but only about a quarter of qualified candidates available to fill those roles, according to Code.org, which lobbies for the discipline to be taught more widely in schools.

We know we have a lot of work to do, but if more organizations are willing to spend the money investing in the future of girls, we think the world will start to see a massive cultural change once they know the vast array of options available to them.

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