When I first read Francine Hardaway’s blog post, “Why Women Shouldn’t Code” I could tell she is wrong by glancing at the title, but I expected a bait and switch. So I clicked to read expecting she’d say what many people say is the problem with why there aren’t enough women coders in Silicon Valley, that there aren’t enough women or minorities “in the pipeline” (referring to schools not teaching kids to code). But then after sharing it on my Facebook, and watching the comments ensue like an article on The Onion, I wanted to go into more detail about the four ways this post is misrepresenting women in tech. We (men and women in Silicon Valley) should accept that coding is a part of the solution to the misrepresentation of women and minorities in tech and do something about it. Society needs to work with our kids; encouraging partnerships between the private and public sectors, but also the government as well.
1. Companies are not “forcing” women into coding roles. Come on.
Though many people like to get behind this one, it’s a dead end debate because that’s not happening. No company is strapping women to chairs and making them code. There are, however many helpful programs out there for girls who code. For example, there’s CodingFTW. We are a collection of girls and women with diverse backgrounds who have a passion for learning, teaching, training, and competing in hackathons. Of course, we love technology, both software and hardware. We are a network of women role models kind-of like big sister to younger girls who code. We mentor girls in their coding projects, specifically for inner city girls, providing scholarships, curriculum, and supplies. The youth want to come to learn, and no one is forcing them. But it is more important now than ever before for schools, private and public, start adopting code curriculum into basic skills. Core logic should be taught as early as the alphabet. “If this then that” logic helps early child development because it aids kids minds to develop and become efficient in decision making.
2. Her analogies about coding VS writing are so off base.
She thinks that coding is something it’s not. She claims that code is attention to detail. I disagree. Coding is like writing and doing math at the same time. Francine says, “people are fond of saying code is the next language, and that’s all fine, but there’s a difference between language and syntax. Coding is syntax.” Coding is logic. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know how to code even though in a private message to me, she claims she can code. I wrote on Facebook that today everyone should learn to code. Common Core should include Basic, or Python, or Java. Even if it is just LOGO and kids learn to draw stars moving the turtle, that’s fine. Logic is one of the most important fools in life. Understanding if this then that statements is the fundamental building block of every cause and effect a person will observe in their lifetime.
3. She clearly thinks coding is what it was in the 1960s-1980s, dark rooms, only about precision instead of creativity, etc.
Coding is not highly technical. It can be very basic and short. It doesn’t mean working in a dark room writing code 24/7 like it used to, perhaps a long time ago this was true. It’s about making something truly creative, inventing solutions to the impossible, and being imaginative. Today, many of the jobs in tech don’t require management to write the code, but they do push their employees to know how to, at the very least, read the code. That is because in the near future roles will require employees to use simple code to innovate creative workplace hacks to be more productive. If employees don’t learn to read and write code then they will lose hours in the day and become increasingly unproductive compared to those who do.
4. Nice of her to set back women 50 years by saying women should fill certain gender-specific positions.
She says companies should “instead hire them for the talents they have” referring to the innate womanly attributes. Women need to learn to code now more than ever because companies are starting to require that their employees code. But it’s not just women. Men too. Girls and boys should be taught to code not because women are nurturing and men are macho, but because technology is moving at such a fast pace that America needs to fill jobs and create a workforce the next generation can fill. STEM is the solution that will make a lasting impact on the future of Silicon Valley and America if we can shift the perspective of society to become more inclusive and less exclusive.
Join CodingFTW in our mission for diversity inclusion in tech. Support and encourage everyone you care about to code.