It’s tough to imagine yourself kicking butt in a career that nobody like you has previously succeeded in. Take the representation of young girls in recent films like Ghostbusters and Wonder Woman as examples. Little girls, just like little boys, benefit from seeing successful adults showing them the way.
Things aren’t too different in the world of coding, at least not until Code Like A Girl came along. The organisation is the brainchild of co-founders Ally Watson and Vanessa Doake. The pair identified a gap in the coding education system whereby girls were feeling unheard and uninspired.
Techly chatted to Vanessa, who oversees events and business operations, about the impact she’s making with Code Like A Girl.
Explain what Code Like A Girl is, and why it’s relevant for young Aussies.
Code Like A Girl is an organisation dedicated to providing girls with the tools, knowledge and support to enter and flourish in the world of coding. We do this primarily through our tech focused events which we hold in Sydney and Melbourne (and soon Adelaide).
Our workshops are for girls in grades 1-12, as well as adults who have an interest in coding. Most recently we launched a new service, Working Space, which connects our community to jobs with employers that are committed to equality in their workplace.
How did Code Like A Girl start?
Code Like a Girl was the brainchild of my co-founder Ally who experienced first hand the isolation associated with being a female developer and decided to host a meet-up to bring female coders together to learn, encourage each other and celebrate their achievements.
We realised just how many other women felt the same as Ally when we received over one hundred RSVPs.
Wow! We are just so thrilled to share that our Sydney launch event 'Code Like a Boss' was a great success! Thank you to everyone that was a part of it – our generous sponsors @canva @canonaustralia and #DiUS, our inspirational speakers Holly, Emma, Tanya and chair Sally-Ann and last, but not least, 250+ of you who came along!
How do you think CLAG is changing Australian education? What do you think still needs to change?
We’re certainly changing tech education for girls by ensuring it’s inclusive, accessible and fun.
We create an environment that is inclusive, where any girl from any background is supported by female role models working in the tech industry.
We create an environment that is accessible – regardless of your economic background, cost is not a barrier to attend our workshops or events – and we work hard to present information that’s engaging and without jargon, to help dispel the myth that you need high intelligence to succeed. We firmly believe that dedication and hardwork are equal to intelligence.
But also, we ensure that what we teach is fun! We focus on conveying our passion about something that is full of wonder, opportunity and creativity. Rarely are those same traits conveyed in traditional classroom education. Coding education in schools is presented in a way that makes it unappealing. Our education system needs to find more ways to make technology engaging.
What’s been the most challenging & most rewarding aspect of working for an innovative business in Australia?
The most rewarding aspect is seeing the difference we make to young Australian girls and women. We hear countless stories of young girls interested in technology who feel excluded and uncomfortable being a minority in the classroom, as well as women in similar situations, that are being overlooked within their organisations. Through Code Like A Girl, they’ve been able to find a community that supports their interests and careers in technology. It’s a space where they’re no longer the minority, or the odd one out, but have a sense of belonging with other like-minded girls.
The most challenging aspect is finding the resources to meet the demand for our workshops and events. We receive emails from girls across the country requesting workshops and events in their city, and we’re still seeking partners in every state and territory to make this a reality.
What’s the most exciting new technology you’d like to incorporate into your day-to-day?
I’ve recently started using an AI email assistant who takes on the back-and-forth communication that goes into scheduling meetings. The service is still in beta, but I’m finding it a pretty easy and effective time-saver. I’m looking forward to seeing how this technology evolves and the other functions it can take on!
What’s the best feedback you and your team have received?
One of our junior coding workshop attendees started an elective coding subject at the beginning of high school, and discovered she was the only girl in the class. Understandably, she found it quite an intimidating environment and felt her coding interests weren’t addressed in preference to the majority. At the end of her first Code Like A Girl workshop she went home and told her parents, “I didn’t know there were other girls like me!”
Finding this female community has increased her confidence and self-esteem, and she has continued teaching herself computer skills.
How many Nobel Prizes, cures for cancer, and answers to the world’s most significant challenges are locked in the minds of girls who may avoid STEM fields because they are intimidated or think, “I could never do that, I’m not smart enough, or talented enough, or I don’t look like anyone else in the room”?
Code Like A Girl is opening the door for them.