Why Can’t Girls Code?
Last week, @GirlsWhoCode released a hilarious new ad, cheekily entitled Why Can’t Girls Code? that has already garnered over 350,000 views on YouTube. One would-be female coder laments, “I can’t code, because my long eyelashes make it hard to see the screen.” Another explains, “When I’m not menstruating, I’m ovulating, so there’s no time to code.” For girls who wish they could code, the struggle is, clearly, real.
Sarcasm aside, the title of the ad raises a salient point. Why can’t girls code? There seems to be a belief ingrained in our society that males are better coders than females. This belief has been demonstrated in workplaces and in schools, in males and in females, and of course in popular portrayals of coders in TV and movies. Many theories have been suggested in order to explain why men are so much better at coding than women. Could it be that men just have more logical brains? Maybe it’s that men are able to focus better than women, or are better at math?
The truth is, the idea that males are better coders than females is a myth. In a recent study, it was found that GitHub pull requests submitted by female coders were actually more likely to be accepted than those submitted by male coders… as long as they were submitted anonymously. It is very telling that this trend is reversed when the gender of the coders are revealed. According to the study, “women’s acceptance rates are 71.8% when they use gender neutral profiles, but drop to 62.5% when their gender is identifiable.”
The myth that girls can’t code is harmful; not only to young women who might have wanted to pursue careers in the coding arts, but also to our economy as a whole. There are currently over 600,000 unfilled computer science jobs in this country alone. It is estimated that by 2020, that number will rise to over a million. “Why?” Robin Hauser Reynolds (Director / Producer at CODE documentary) asks, “Because we are missing half the population. Less than 18% of computer science engineers in the US workforce are female.”
Filling even a portion of these jobs with well trained female coders would be a huge boon to the US economy. Not only would it put a huge number of unemployed people to work (thus expanding the workforce and increasing tax revenue), but the work itself needs to get done in order for our society to reach its economic potential. We’re moving into a digital age, where computers help us manage every aspect of our lives, from communication to entertainment to transportation and healthcare. Digital technology is the new infrastructure of our country, and we need all hands on deck to build that infrastructure as quickly and as effectively as possible. Moreover, males and females tend to have different experiences in life, different interests, and different perspectives. If males are the only ones building the infrastructure of the digital age, female consumers will be left underrepresented. Girls who code can bring a great deal of feminine insight into the digital realm, and build things that other girls might actually want to use.
So, if female coders are so essential to our economy, and they actually tend to be considered better coders than men when they hide their identities, it really does beg the question: why can’t girls code?