Google’s Made with Code Pushes Ladies to Pursue Computer ScienceJuly 11, 2014
According to the American Association of University Women, fewer than 1% of high school girls show intent to major in computer science. The lack of female representation in STEM fields is well documented, with Google’s recent demographics report drawing extra attention to the lack of diversity.
In an effort to combat this, Google has teamed up with a number of powerful partners on Made with Code including Chelsea Clinton, Mindy Kaling, Girl Scouts of the USA and more to spread awareness.
Mindy Kaling speaks on stage at the “Google’s Made With Code” Launch Event To Inspire Girls To Code Hosted By Mindy Kaling And Featuring Chelsea Clinton at Skylight Modern on June 19, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic for Google)
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, recently took to the official Google blog to explain the goals behind the new program.
“Nowadays, coding isn’t just a useful skill for working at a tech company; engineering isn’t just for engineers,” Wojcicki says. “No matter what a girl dreams of doing, learning how to code will help her get there.”
Specifically, the program’s website offers a variety of different introductory coding activities for young girls to try out–– coding their own 3D printed bracelet, creating their own GIFS and building beats for original songs.
In addition to the basics, Made with Code is partnering with the Girl Scouts of the USA and Girls, Inc. to integrate coding into their existing networks of young girls, according to Google’s blog.
Wojcicki says the three-year, $50 million plan also intends to reward teachers who encourage their female students to utilize coding tools like Codecademy or Khan Academy.
“I think the concept of getting more girls involved in computer science is something that is absolutely crucial right now,” says Christina Coviello, a senior at Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J. “With the recent push for gender equality combined with the huge demand for software engineers… I cannot think of a better time to be encouraging girls to pursue their interests within the world of technology.”
Angie Murphy, a computer science major at the University of Texas at Austin, says that she sees Made with Code changing the way girls view computer science.
“It can be intimidating as a young girl to get involved in a field where society or the media (displays it) as something not feminine or fun,” Murphy says.
In addition to the interactive website, Made with Code is trying to appeal to high school and college age girls by using writer and actress Mindy Kaling as a spokesperson. Kaling brought her characteristic humor to the event when she talked about what apps she would create if she could code.
“What’s His Deal? An App that takes a picture of a guy and tells you what’s his deal: Married? Single? Weirdo? What’s his car like?” Kaling joked to a crowd of young girls at the launch event, where Icona Pop also performed.
Google’s attempt to use celebrity to pull in the younger crowd appears to be working, according to Coviello and Murphy, who both heard about Made with Code through Kaling’s involvement.
“I came across a photo of (Kaling) holding some Made with Code bracelets on her Instagram,” Coviello says.
Murphy says seeing one of her favorite stars involved in the cause is what got her to do some research on the initiative.
“I follow (Kaling) on Instagram and Twitter, so I saw a photo of her at the event and immediately searched it up,” Murphy says. “It’s really cool seeing your role models doing something you love and encouraging others to do it, too.”
But Lucy Vernasco, a recent graduate of University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, sees Made with Code’s attempts as overly girly and simplistic.
“I think the program is problematic in that it encourages girls to think of computer science as soft, compassionate, kind and creative, as if these are the only ways a girl could find science appealing.”
Vernasco says that after using the activities on the website, she wishes Made with Code was providing girls with more of a “challenge.”
“Not every girl likes pink and purple, cute images adorned with eyelashes, and making bracelets… I think Google is only perpetuating (stereotypes) by encouraging girls to program but in a way that’s not challenging and within the stereotypes of being a girl,” Vernasco says.
Amelia Enberg, a senior at Roosevelt University in Chicago who came across Made with Code during research for her marketing internship, sees the initiative as a step in the right direction.
“In computer science, there is so much opportunity in the future for women in the field,” Enberg says. “Imagine all the apps and programs that are yet to be created. Even if it is just making simple GIFs of your favorite TV show, there is huge room for interest to grow.”
Coviello sees the push to get young girls coding as helpful to both the tech industry as well as women as a whole.
“A win for feminism and for computer science–– it doesn’t get much better than that.”