Where are the women?

So, I’m a CS teacher at an all-girls’ school.  Like many CS teachers, I’m gearing up for CSEdWeek and participating in the Hour of Code event. I signed up at Code.org‘s website long ago.  I’m excited by what code.org has brought to the table: famous people, money, slick marketing.  A lot of groundwork has been laid by a lot of people and code.org is helping to take that work to the next level.  That’s all good.

Yesterday, I received some materials from code.org to promote the Hour of Code. I excitedly opened the package and pulled out what was clearly a few posters and a brochure.  I was already imagining where I was going to hang the posters.  When I opened them, I was staring Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Bosch in the face.  Two guys.  Two perfectly legitimate guys, mind you, but guys.  My heart sank.  Once again, the message is, “Coding is for boys.”  I can’t hang the posters.  I just can’t.

I realize that no one probably checks whether the materials are going to a co-ed school or an all boys school or whatever.  Heck, I suspect the people that stuffed the envelope might not even know that all-girls’ schools even exist.  But still.

So many people working hard to get more people coding, and so many people ignoring half of the population.  Ugh. I’m getting tired of this fight.

8 Replies to “Where are the women?”

  1. Have hope. The chair of the CS department at University of Montana is a woman. Husband and 2 kids. I met her for the first time a couple of weeks ago. It is hard to find women that are household names and involved in CS to go on a poster. If Lindsey Vonn or Hope Solo were into CS they would have been on a poster. Of course every male computer geek would want the poster for the looks, not because the girls are into CS. Can’t win them all.

  2. Yeah, I know. I mean I was the only girl in my CS class in college. It has gotten better. And I’m surrounded by only female students, so there’s that. And, I have to say, the male CS teachers I know are really working hard to remedy this problem. And that’s way better than it was 20 years ago.

  3. That’s unfortunate about code.org, but at least not all the folks promoting coding aren’t male-centric–organizations like Black Girls Code, Girl Develop It, and Ladies Learning Code specifically target women, and events like RailsBridge and PyStar are aimed at increasing diversity in open-source communities. I also like that Mozilla Webmaker’s initiative, while not specifically targeted at women, is very inclusive of them both in its promotional materials and its community (as a disclaimer, though, I do work for Mozilla, so I’m biased).

  4. Oops, I meant “at least not all the folks promoting coding *are* male-centric”. I think.

    It’s late, and I should go to bed.

  5. Thanks, Atul! I agree. I don’t think code.org means to be male-centric. The field is male-centric, after all, but I hope that they work a little harder to be more inclusive.

  6. Hi, as the founder of Code.org, I have to apologize on behalf of the numerous women I personally asked to participate in these posters, who said “no”. This left me with no good choices. A poster with a woman that no student has ever heard of has its own downsides. Besides, if we included two caucasians and an african american, we’d be excluding hispanics, who are also woefully underrepresented.

    At the end of the day, we had to make a choice. I also fully understand your choice not to hang up the posters, but please don’t think that I didn’t try.

    (note: in our launch video, we had lots of women, but people asked “Where are the famous women?” “Where are the hispanics?”, “Where are the teachers?” . It is quite difficult to check all the boxes and please everybody, especially with limits on time, money, and attention! But we hope that you support us for giving it our best. Also, for the Hour of Code kick-off launch video I promise very significant representation by women)

  7. As a side note: check out this post on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PaigePaquette/statuses/306416555636441092. This viewer the exact same question of the original Code.org film: “where are the women?” In her eyes, Ruchi Sanghvi, Elena Silenok, Vanessa Hurst, and Bronwen Grimes were all invisible.

    My #1 goal for the Hour of Code campaign is to have lots of non-CS teachers recruit their *entire* classroom to code. Math teachers, English teachers, science teachers, history teachers, none of them have the same woeful underrepresentation by girls, african americans, or hispanics. If they teach one Hour of Code, we will for one week have equal representation in CS, giving us a window to change the entire stereotype. Fortunately, over 10,000 educators have signed up to host the Hour of Code, so things are looking positive so far.

    – Hadi Partovi

  8. Hadi,

    I very much appreciate your response, and I am participating in the Hour of Code and hosting what I hope will be a huge event at my school. I truly appreciate what your organization is trying to do. I get that there aren’t a lot of women in CS/IT that people have heard of, but maybe they haven’t heard of them because no one is promoting them. Marissa Meyer, Sheryl Sandberg, Maria Klawe may not be household names, but if people start talking about them in conjunction with coding rather than always using Mark Zuckerberg as an example, we might make progress on that front.

    I hope next year we’re not in the same boat. And I know the video has lots of women in it. And I know you’re trying. Thanks again for the response.

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