Ever had one of those moments when you realize exactly how much you don’t know about a topic? This happened to me the other day when a friend shared a post she’d written entitled ‘What 29,000 Girls Taught Me About Tech.’ I was shocked by the high number of girls in tech; and to be more honest, surprised that girls are learning tech. Not because they’re girls, but because I associated it with something that people learn in college. Perhaps it’s a world that I’m not privy to because my daughters are just 4 and 6 years old, but reading this article definitely opened my eyes and got me wondering at what age I should consider getting them involved? In this ever-changing society we live in no one wants to be the last one on the boat.
So to bring me up to speed, I decide to call Keesa Schreane, tech speaker, blogger, analytic marketer, friend and author of the above-mentioned article. Here’s what she shared. Consider it A mom’s guide to girls in tech or Girls in Tech for Mummies.
What’s your experience with girls in the tech world?
My primary volunteer work is with Black Girls Code and the Girl Scouts who are focused on Science Technology Engineering in Math (STEM) in their day-to-day curriculum in school. I feel like children should have strategies to understand the different careers, so I’m helping these girls to understand the options that are out there. I’ve been doing it for 5 years.
What should a mom know about STEM?
I would recommend doing your research in a particular city. Kimberly Bryant is the founder of Black Girls Code and she started this organization to make the world a better place for her daughter who was interested in the STEM area. There are also other organizations like Girls Who Code, Coder Dojo, which I’m learning more about, and the Girl Scouts.
What are the girls learning?
At one of the Girls Who Code events I went to over the summer the girls were learning how to build a video game. It was a full day event. We had the right materials, the right teachers with coding backgrounds, as well as volunteers who didn’t code, but are there for moral support. The girls may not build the biggest, best game in one day, but they have the foundation of how to build and even better than that they have exposure. They also learn teamwork.
What else can they learn?
There are different coding classes that are taught in high school and college. For example, Python coding, you can even learn online. What we do is help girls understand what a career looks like in a STEM field. Here’s a woman who has a PhD who chose the scientific field for her career, what is her day-to-day like at a company or as an entrepreneur? Learning coding is great, but the true value is exposing them to women who have chosen careers so they can determine if they like it for themselves.
At what age should we start exposing our kids to the tech field?
Children like playing with iphones, naturally, so they kind of expose themselves. If they’re playing with your phone, play some games. See what they find interesting.
Some moms are anti-game because of the addiction factor. How do we know which games are good for our kids?
I’d reach out to organizations like the Girl Scouts or Black Girls Code to see what steps they’d recommend you take given your child’s age. They’re experts in the field.
Are programs provided in school?
If the school does have a program it’s great for parents to look outside of the school if a girl enjoys it. Girls get a kick out of events that we have when parents come because they love that they can do things a lot more efficiently and quicker than the parents. Imagine your 6 year-old making an app or video game quicker than you.
Are events free?
There have been events that are free. Girl Scouts have dues. Just recently my firm Thomson Reuters hosted a free panel event that included some STEM girls. Again, it’s an opportunity for girls to get a sense of what careers are like, get office tours and to talk to women who are in their careers.
What are some of the possible careers through coding?
You can build websites, develop aps or mobile phones. You may want to focus on digital creation. The language you learn dictates what area you go in.
Is there a type of girl that is more likely to be interested in tech?
One really cool social media hashtag that went viral is #Ilooklikeanengineer. The hashtag was created because folks have been told what an engineer is supposed to look like, especially in terms of being a woman. I would not categorize who would make a better engineer or technologist because it’s open to so much.
Is tech the best industry for a girl to get into?
I can’t say it’s the best field because it’s very individual and depends on what a girl finds interesting. I’m hugely a proponent of understanding the strategies, understanding what you like, understanding what value you can give to the world and working from that. Not looking out there and seeing how you can fit around that. What does the world need, what does my community need? Sometimes there’s not a need like with the iPhone. We didn’t know we needed it, but now we can’t live without it. Great entrepreneurs create a need. I’d suggest familiarizing yourself around the topic. Google some stats on girls in tech to see how many go on to pursue careers.
Incidentally, since speaking to Keesa I discovered a mom whose 10 year-old daughter, Sascha, has been attending coding events since she was age 7. She says, “Exposing Sascha to the world of technology–through Black Girls Code and other outlets–gives her the opportunity to dream bigger, and know that she can be whatever she wants to be. She’s an avid YouTuber and taught herself how to create videos on her iPhone for that, but by learning about different aspects of technology she’s also been exposed to designing computer programs, building robots and different editing tools. There’s so many levels to where having these skills can take her in life.”
I’ll say! It’s an exciting time for young girls in tech!