In this article, we're going to look at some of the best programming platforms out there that think coding for girls is just as important as we do. We want more girls coding not just to help society, but also because coding, like other jobs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (or STEM) are opening up doors for people now more than ever! But despite the rapid growth of STEM careers and prosperity, according to the latest STEM stats, women only make up a disproportionate 27% of the overall STEM workforce. We think it's about time to even that playing field, and encourage a much-needed female perspective to inform the code that impacts our everyday lives.
When one thinks of prominent figures in Computer Science, it's easy to list off famous men. You've probably heard of Bill Gates. Maybe Alan Turing rings a bell. But did you know that we often attribute the title of "First Computer Programer" to a Miss Ada Lovelace? Or have you ever heard about how Grace Hopper revolutionized the way we write code, drastically influencing almost every programming language that came after her?
It's no secret that computer science, programming included, is currently a male-dominated industry. Which is interesting when you consider that roughly half of the global population (in fact, just a little more than half) is female. It gets even more interesting when we think about just how intertwined technology has become with our day-to-day. No, we're not just talking about some room full of people in some undisclosed location programming trajectories for space travel. We're talking about an office full of people down the street from us programming devices that we carry in our pockets every day, devices that inform the way we live our life and how we make routine decisions. Shouldn't that group of people, those who are responsible for impacting our everyday life so directly, shouldn't that group be representative of the population they're affecting?
Girls, have fun learning how to code, and design your own project for social good with free online classes from Create & Learn and Meta's Engineer for the Week:
Explore coding for girls
So we know why girls should be coding, but what is coding in the first place, and would girls even be good at it? (We think you know the answer to that last question.)
What is coding?
Coding is the way we communicate with computers. When we code, we 'speak' in a programming language, which is a language that both we, as humans, can understand, and our computers, as machines, can also understand. See, computers don't think quite in the same way humans do, in fact, they don't really think at all, they're just really good at following instructions. And all of those instructions, as complex as they might seem, can all be reduced down to True or False statements, or rather, 1's an 0's. We call this Binary.
Humans aren't very good at thinking in binary. Imagine if there were only two letters in our alphabet, instead of 26. It's hard enough already to express ourselves with the full English language at our disposal! Programming languages are often made up of words and symbols we're already comfortable with, and formatted in a way that computers can translate into 1's and 0's.
Coding provides us with an easy way to take our ideas and convey them to a very powerful tool we otherwise wouldn't be able to communicate with. If you're good at communicating, you'll be good at coding!
Is coding good for girls?
Of course it is! In fact, women dominated the computing and programming industry up until the late 20th century (read all about famous women in computer science). What happened in the last 50 or so years is a story for another day. But the fact of the matter is that we live in a time where girls are drastically underrepresented in one of the fastest growing and most influential fields in our society.
Since coding is simply a language of logic, no one of any gender is more or less predisposed to be good at it. The only thing we see holding girls back these days is the (relatively new) stereotype that "programming isn't for girls." When someone even thinks that they won't like something, they're much less likely to try it in the first place. We're on a mission to change that bogus stereotype!
What age should you start coding?
Anyone can code just like anyone can learn a new language, which is one reason we think coding for kids is so important. The sooner we're exposed to a second language, the easier it is to learn. With the vast amount of resources available to us today, such as drag and drop block-based programming languages including Scratch, many kids are already creating games and animations before they can even type, and internalizing fundamental concepts that will prove important to them throughout a potential lifelong coding or engineering career.
Discover the best coding for girls platforms
Here's a list of some great platforms that put diversity, especially when it comes to getting more girls into coding, at the forefront of their educational mission.
We believe passionately in the importance of computer science education for all kids K-12, and recognize that many skills necessary for propelling a student through our modern age simply aren't getting the attention they deserve in a traditional school setting. Coding isn't just some dry elective reserved for niche and poorly conveyed programs. Coding is for everyone, should be fun to learn, and is just as important for a well-rounded education as Math or English.
Our CEO, Jessie Jiang, is a great example of how one woman in computer science can take her expertise as well as personal experience as a mother, and make a huge impact on over 100,00 students already who have learned to build (by building to learn!) games, animations, and even applications with real relevance in the real world through programming. We offer a wide variety of classes led by passionate teachers dedicated to giving a hands-on education, everything from robotics to design. And check out our blog for free programming tutorials and insightful articles.
What they offer: Live online small group computer science classes, coding camps, and free coding tutorials
Ages: Grades K-12
Get started: Check out free coding classes for kids.
Have fun learning how to code, and design your own project in Scratch for social good with Create & Learn and Meta's Engineer for the Week free classes, too!
If anyone knows about the gender disparity in computer science, they probably checked out Girls who Code for their information. With a pointed focus on getting more girls into computer science, Girls who Code provides a great resource for both advocacy and education. If you feel that your local community is lacking in outlets for girls looking to learn coding, Girls who Code will get you the support you need, whether you're experienced or not, to bring those opportunities where they need to be.
They offer training for sponsors who want to start a local coding club wherever they may be located; they can also direct you to an already established club near you. And on top of that, they offer some very mindful coding tutorials that you can engage with for free from your living room if you like.
What they offer: Resources to start a local club and free coding tutorials
Ages: Grades 3-12
Get started: Learn more about Girls who Code at their website.
When we ask our students if they've had any prior coding experience, something we hear again and again is "Code.org." Famous for their numerous "Hour of Code" activities, Code.org is a great place for girls who perhaps don't think coding is for them to give it a shot without any serious commitment. Their website doubles as a coding platform, so if you've already got internet access, you have everything you need to start coding!
We like Code.org because, in the spirit of inclusivity, everything this nonprofit company offers is totally free. And on top of guided courses, you can also browse the over 176 million projects from users around the world. While both girls and boys will find Code.org a great resource, they're dedicated to bringing educational resources to underrepresented groups, and boast an impressive 45% Female or Gender-Expansive student base already.
What they offer: Guided courses and fun projects
Ages: Grades K-12
Get started: Discover everything Code.org has to offer at their website.
We don't see as many girls coding right now as we think we should. Within that small population, we see even fewer girls of color coding. Black Girls Code will give you some insights as to why African American women, as well as Latina and Native American women, are even more underrepresented in the field of computer science. And this is a problem for the same reasons we examined above: the percentage of women of color studying and working in computer science is a far cry from the percentage of women of color that actually make up our population.
They have chapters and workshops around the country (in some cases, the world) focused specifically on getting more Black women and girls access to computer science education. These chapters offer workshops, activities, clubs and summer camps covering a variety of topics, such as virtual reality, robotics, game design, web design and mobile app development.
What they offer: Camps, clubs, and workshops
Get started: See if there's a chapter or an event coming up near you at their website!
Specifically for girls and boys age 5 to 9, CodeSpark Academy is an all-in-one platform and curriculum with numerous awards and certifications. Their "lesson plan" is more like a world of games and puzzles for kids to engage with, and with monthly or annual subscriptions, kids can expect a steady stream of new content to keep them interested.
We like CodeSpark Academy because, on top of being very affordable, they design their educational platform "to increase engagement in girls and close the gender gap in STEM." If you're looking to introduce a young girl to coding for the first time, this seems like a pretty good place to start.
What they offer: A coding app for young kids
Get started: They offer a Free 7-Day Trial on their website!
6. Coding Girls
Coding Girls recognizes just how fast tech jobs are growing right now, and just how big the gender gap in tech jobs is as well. They're on a mission to empower girls with resources and advocacy, and shift the landscape of gender in technology, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
Coding girls is more geared towards young-adults. They offer both in-person and virtual events around the world from insightful talks to full on coding workshops. And if you're interested in bringing some of these resources to your local community, they also support leaders looking to start their own chapters!
What they offer: Resources to learn coding and tech event tickets
Get started: You can see if there's an event near you at their website.
Scratch is a free platform designed by MIT to introduce kids to coding, and while they don't explicitly market towards girls, one look at the featured projects on their homepage will tell you just how important inclusivity is to them. Scratch is more focused at providing a platform for educators than they are being an educator themselves, but they do offer a lot of in-house tutorials that girls will find engaging, and free from any stereotypes that coding isn't for girls.
Scratch is also a great platform to explore what other kids are up to in their own coding journeys. There are countless projects posted every day to preview and remix. Great for finding inspiration, feeling included, and perhaps even learning something new! Some programs also offer Scratch coding classes using the block-based beginner-friendly programming language.
What they offer: Tutorials and project inspiration
Ages: Grades 2+
Get started: It's totally free to create an account at their website, though kids can create projects without needing an account if they want, they just won't be able to save their projects.
Techgirlz is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring girls towards careers in computer science through free workshops and events. They not only provide resources for educators, but also offer volunteer opportunities to high school girls who don't need to bother waiting around before making a real impact in their communities.
The diverse tech curriculums themselves are designed for middle school age levels (11-14), but by involving women of all ages in the process, Techgirlz is helping bridge the gaps girls often face trying to advance in the tech world.
What they offer: Volunteer opportunities and tech curriculums
Get started: Learn more about Techgirlz and their mission at their official website
9. Django Girls
Django Girls gets their name from the open-sourced and widely used Django Web Framework in Python. And, in the spirit of open-source projects, Django Girls is determined to reach out to students who have traditionally been priced out or barred-by-stereotype from participating in the tech world. They offer free online workshops for girls and students of marginalized genders from around the world.
Django Girls is awesome because they recognize that girls aren't getting a fair shake in today's tech industry. To combat this disparity, their curriculum is pointed, mainly focusing on the ever-important development of web applications. Students who work with Django Girls will walk away with a clear path forward to make it in the tech industry. These workshops are virtual, but based all around the world in many languages.
What they offer: Online coding workshops
Ages: There are no age limitations but it's geared towards teens and up
Get started: See when the next one is coming up at their website!
10. Khan Academy
Khan Academy started out as a humble YouTube channel, and has since grown into a massive nonprofit educational tool covering subjects from math and science to history, even language arts! They provide awesome courses specifically for computer programming, and with a convenient integrated development environment right on their website, Khan Academy is a great way to fuel a spark of interest in programming without investing too much time or effort up front.
What they offer: Self-guided on-demand courses for programming
Get started: Try computer programming
Coding games for girls
We've covered some great place where girls can learn coding and get the support they might need to both spark and pursue their interests. If you're looking to get started right away though, here are some projects we think girls will love, and can even build themselves by using some of the platforms we listed above.
- Virtual Pet Turtle: Just like having a real turtle (sort of), this is a fun simulation game where you can take care of your very own pet turtle, and take it on some fun adventures as well. You can find this Game on Scratch, and a tutorial on how to build a game like this on Scratch's Official YouTube Channel.
- Flappy Bird: A classic addicting game you might have heard of already. You assume the role of a tiny bird trying to haphazardly navigate through an endless stream of obstacles. You can play the game yourself here, and even learn how to build a game like this with a fun flappy bird tutorial. Here's a video tutorial, too.
- Icon Creator (4.0): This game in Scratch is an awesome example of how any one girl's project can take off and impact the whole platform. This creator designed a game that's meant to help other users on Scratch create their own unique profile picture, and so many users have done just that! You can play the game yourself here, or learn how to build a game like this on Scratch here.
Start your coding for girls adventure
In this article, we covered why we think it's so important for more girls to start coding. It's just short of a crime that, after contributing so much to the industry throughout history, girls are finding themselves left out of this rapidly growing field. If you're reading this, then you're in a great spot to start making the change.
We looked at platforms that can not only empower girls, and help you empower girls, in their coding journey, but also give them the knowledge and practice they need to succeed. Visit some of those sites to see what they have to offer, try out some programming activities even if you think you might not like it, and we think we speak for everyone when we say, we'd be thrilled to see you in our classroom! Or try your hand a fun tutorial for how to make a clicker game in Scratch.
Written by Ian Kuzmik, a Create & Learn instructor with a Bachelor's Degree in English from Tulane University. He's been teaching grades K-8 since 2019, with a focus in the subjects of ESL and Computer Science.