Whether we like it or not preconceptions exist and sometimes these preconceptions are based on fact. There aren't women in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) and women don't code. We all know this isn't true but it has certainly been a topic of conversation for a long time. Around the world, there are not enough women in technical industries and we need to find ways to change that. But why is this so important?
Digital skills can improve all aspects of our lives, not just our professional opportunities. Of course, being able to code undoubtedly open doors to fantastic career paths. We've already seen lots of Codecademy users who have increased their salaries and quickly climbed up at work thanks to their computer programming know-how. But how else can coding help young people - particularly women growing up in a society that oftentimes teaches them to value glamour and material things over technology - get ahead in life? As a female engineer, with experience as a teacher and in the corporate world, there are a few ways that I see.
First of all, everyone with coding skills gains a better understanding of how things work. Equipped with this insight, female coders and can feel greater confidence in dealing with people who might try to take advantage of their perceived lack of knowledge (think of a car salesman dealing with the single female customer). I love how empowered I feel when my dad or boyfriend asks me to solve their technical problems. Women with coding skills can also take charge of more personal initiatives. It can certainly sometimes feel like a man's world, but a female coder- even with relatively basic skills - won't have to ask for help to start a blog, build a wedding website or design a project to wow her bosses.
To give girls an equal opportunity in a world that is increasingly tech focused, we need to break down the stereotype that computer scientists are boring, male, tech geeks. One way is to introduce girls to the concepts of coding and programming at a younger age. This will happen by default when coding becomes part of Britain's national curriculum in September of this year. It is an opportunity to demystify an area that right now feels intimidating to so many. This means that a generation of students will leave school with highly necessary digital skills - London alone is predicted to need 300,000 digital workers by 2020. But how can we make sure that graduates, particularly women, stay engaged with coding and programming after leaving school?
Society doesn't generally celebrate women in STEM, but the more we encourage our girls to become digitally literate in a technology-driven world - even by showing them how much more they can do in a career in fashion or entertainment by having these skills - the faster we'll get to a place where women are equally celebrated for their technological achievements.