I think it's pretty safe to say that when most of us sit down behind our computers we just open them up and begin typing without giving any thought as to how they actually work...how they find an airfare from here to there, movie times for later tonight, or whatever it is that we're looking up on WebMD (and you know you do). It's all very Wizard of Oz-like, right? There's that curtain that's separates us from what's really going on behind the scenes.
It's hard to remember a time before we relied on computers and technology for nearly everything, isn't it? It seems that they're everywhere. Interestingly enough though, in today's tech savvy and computer-saturated world, it's estimated that only 18% of computer science graduates are women. That's a very small percentage when you consider that historically women have been pioneers in computer science and responsible for incredible advances....hello, Ada Lovelace, Katherine Johnson, Grace Hopper, Annie Easley, and more. Where are we falling short? How is it that girls in elementary school show great interest in computer science and yet, by the time they reach college that peters out to next to nothing? This is why we at GIRLS CAN! CRATE do what we do. We want girls to meet women who have gone before them and made our world better simply by being themselves and using the gifts that they've been given.
This September, to celebrate our crate, The Curious Coder, featuring Grace Murray Hopper, we are partnering with Girls Who Code as our featured nonprofit. We love what they're doing to close the gender gap in technology and get more girls involved and interested in coding. We also love building relationships, so we asked if we could meet one of their coders and learn more about her and why it is that she thinks it's so important for girls to learn to code and then, what they can do with that valuable skill. So, blogosphere, meet Emily....
GIRLS CAN! CRATE: Why do you think it's important for girls to learn to code?
EMILY: The world we live in today is built by code. Technology influences so much of our lives already, and it has the potential to do so much more good than it has. It's important that girls be the designers and creators of a technology-driven world. Our students have used computer science to solve problems they care about. I believe a world with more women in technology companies would be a better world to live in.
GCC: What's one cool thing you've been able to do with your coding skills?
E: When I was working in cyber security, I built software that helped protect government systems from hackers. The coolest thing about working in security is its like a constant puzzle and game -- you need to think about what your adversary's next move will be, and build systems with that in mind. Also, you get to learn how to send secret messages that no one else can read, which is super cool!
GCC: Finish this sentence--A girl who learned to code could grow up to...
E: Use computer science to solve a problem that she cares about, whether it be creating the next big start up, write algorithms to help cure cancer, create a website that addresses homelessness in her community.
GCC: What are some things that young girls (4-8) could do to start learning to code?
E: While there are a lot of online resources, we recommend when you start out to learn alongside others! You can look for a CoderDojo group in your community, or gather some friends to Hour of Code activities on Code.org. Once you start 6th grade, then you start your Girls Who Code Club!
GCC: What would your dream coding assignment be? Would you want to create a new app? A new game? Dream big!
E: I'm really fascinated by the brain, language, and artificial intelligence, which is all about how computers can model what our brains do. I would try to write a program that would model exactly how the brain works. This is super interesting and hard because there's still a lot we don't know about how the brain works, and maybe coding it would help us to learn things we didn't know about before.
GCC: If there was a superhero and her super power was coding, what would her superhero name be?
E: There was: her name was Grace Hopper, and she was a Rear Admiral in the Navy. She invented compilers, which help translate machine code into something readable by humans. Her nickname was "Amazing Grace". That's the most real kind of superhero I know
(Say what!!?? We promise we didn't tell her to say this, but we're excited that she thinks that Grace Hopper is just as cool as we do!)