How Coding Can Help Disadvantaged Girls
Tech companies looking for raw talent tend to employ graduates directly from STEM education courses. These might include degrees such as engineering and mathematics, or more digitally specific programmes like coding or other IT specialisms. But with only 20.3% of students from lower-income families opting to attend university, how do disadvantaged kids get the same opportunities as those from wealthier families?
Learning about coding from a young age could help disadvantaged girls break through the societal barriers in their way — and it could even help them become the leading women in tech of tomorrow.
The Impact of Poverty on Education
Children from disadvantaged backgrounds often have fewer opportunities than those from wealthier backgrounds. This has nothing to do with skill or ability. It’s got even less to do with ambition or drive. Imagine doing a university course where you can focus solely on the education and perhaps some extra-curricular activities. You have the best chance to achieve a great degree, with excellent career prospects.
Now, imagine doing the same course, at the same level. This time, you have to work two jobs to cover your fees or to pay for the care of a sick family member. You might need to cover childcare costs for younger siblings or your own children. Maybe you had to move out because your own home was overcrowded, but you didn’t have access to student housing. Being able to give 100% to education is a privilege that not everyone has. This discrepancy leads to some students from these backgrounds dropping out of their course, or having to take time out. This then has a knock-on effect when they enter the world of work. They may have to commit to jobs or even careers that they don’t necessarily have passion for, just to ensure critical bills are covered.
A Skills Gap Beyond Digital
Research shows that disadvantaged kids are underrepresented in a range of STEM education subjects such as maths degrees, engineering courses, and various science and technology fields.
When you add gender into the mix, it’s depressing to see that there are still far more boys and young men following STEM and tech education routes than women. According to Women in STEM Statistics from STEM Women, female students account for only 35% of those taking core STEM subjects. Those numbers drop even further when you look at engineering and computer sciences. The bizarre and outdated attitude that boys and men are more suited for technical careers makes no sense. Girls in STEM education programmes statistically outperform their male peers. The same applies for girls in tech education subjects, including most types of engineering.
Girls that come from disadvantaged backgrounds have further barriers to success. Students from affluent or advantaged areas are more than twice as likely to attend higher education settings than those from less well-off areas. Girls with disabilities are statistically even less likely to gain a degree, again, due to systemic societal barriers which discourage the idea that tech education is for everyone.
Coding Improves Life Chances
Learning coding from a young age could be a key factor in reducing the class and wealth gap that prevents talented yet disadvantaged students from succeeding. Reasons include:
· Coding teaches problem-solving skills
· Coding is used in so many industries, opening up plenty of opportunities
· Skilled coders often have the freedom to work from home or remotely
· Learning about coding increases digital awareness
· Plus, researching coding and related skills lets young people know what opportunities are available to them
· Achieving competence at any skill increases confidence, self-belief, and boosts ambition and drive to succeed
· Many coding programmes for young people are free and available to all
How Coding Programmes from Organisations like Girls Into Coding Help
One of the problems in getting our disadvantaged girls into coding from a young age is that poorer families often don’t have the financial means to provide these opportunities for their kids. That’s where organizations like Girls Into Coding come in. Girls Into Coding provides peer-to-peer and mentor-led learning opportunities for girls by holding hands-on events and workshops designed to promote a passion for STEM and technology.
Girls who come to the events, or attend them virtually, learn that there are so many girls from all types of backgrounds that share these passions. They enjoy making robots and learning about computing and coding. Just as importantly, girls learn to collaborate and communicate effectively. These skills will help build the confidence of our girls so that when it comes time to think about getting a degree or choosing a vocation, they can work together to find effective ways to bust through the barriers set before them
When it comes to coding girls education should provide equal opportunities. And, in an ideal world, children shouldn’t be held back just because they come from disadvantaged backgrounds. While we can’t fix the societal issues that cause such gaps in opportunity, we can provide solutions that give disadvantaged girls the chance to learn digital skills that will give them better chances in life, no matter what career path they eventually choose.-