By Madelaine Coelho
Today marks a first in Code Camp history.
Today, we have achieved a 50/50 gender split in Code Camp enrolment.
My journey with Code Camp began two years ago when I started teaching girls how to code. The intent of this program was to encourage and inspire young innovative minds, while teaching the fundamentals of computer science. When I began teaching this program, I knew that there was a huge gender gap in the field of computer science, and from my personal experience I felt that being “the only girl” in a male dominated class was quite intimidating. While having the opportunity to develop my own program here at Arcane, I knew it was important to ease this intimation and provide girls with a competitive edge. One of my personal goals for the Arcane Code Camp program is not only to inspire young, innovative minds, but to also help build female coding and computer literacy confidence.
Over the span of a year, I individually taught over 50 girls. This opened my eyes to the importance in teaching children and adolescents tangible skills. We expect so much of the upcoming generation, with all the opportunities they have in technology however, we don’t always provide them with the skills to fully comprehend or grasp the technology they use. Computer science can lead the ability to harness a strong technological sense, and it’s my goal to have Arcane Code Camp accomplish this.
Let’s back track to May 2015, when I put my pursuit of gender equality in the technological fields on the backburner and focused my attention towards the cause of providing children with the opportunity to learn how to code. During the registration period, I noticed that the number of females enrolled at Arcane Code Camp was low, while the male registration numbers skyrocketed. At the time I viewed the glass half full, and was proud of the full enrolment, opposed to the gender disparity right in front of me. It wasn’t until we were closer to the first day of programing that I realized we were beginning a full session with no female interest. This shook me and quickly redirected my attention towards my original initiative - getting females to code.
As a female in a computer science who endured negative comments such “girls don’t know how to code”, “she can’t make anything cool”, and “I don’t think she knows what she’s doing,” (all of which are very inaccurate statements), I realized that I can not wait for change to come. It is I, myself that will need to pave the way. So I decided to act. I reached out to a number of my computer science teachers, professors and instructors, asking them to encourage, any bright young females who are interested in technology and computers, to pursue Arcane Code Camp. I contacted female students in leadership roles at Western University, to help spread the word and gain a competitive edge. Slowly, through networking and sharing my computer science knowledge to others, I began to see the female enrolment rise.
So here we are, September 2016 and eight terms of Code Camp later, I have finally witnessed the enrolment I have been striving for - a 50/50 gender split. I know that by reaching out and inspiring the young women of today will tap into the 50% of voices in technology we are lacking in society, and I couldn’t be more proud. I strongly encourage you to reaching out to the young, bright girls in your life, and make sure they have confidence to approach technology opportunities as they arise.
Over the last two years, I have gained the confidence to reach out, ask questions, and focus on a skill I am passionate about. All of these opportunities have led me to where I am today – starting as an Arcane Code Camp programmer, to now, a Front-End Web Developer on the Arcane Web Development Team - and I couldn’t be happier.