What more can we do to encourage more women to get into technology?
Programming language, websites, and HTML – terms that men tend to deal with rather than women. That's the assumption, at least. That's why Julia, 26, and Natalie, 29, think it's crucial for women especially to have a basic grasp of how the digital world that we encounter every day actually works. That's why the two young ladies from Leipzig started 'Code Girls', a course for girls and women to learn programming easily and a safe place to ask silly questions. Julia says, "It would be great if women were and could be more involved in the digital world." And she's right.
Code Girls is the first step to helping young women overcome their fear of contact with traditionally male occupations, such as programming and web design. However it is a small step and must be seen as just the beginning of a wider change across Germany, since there are so few ways into these professions for women, as highlighted in the discussion about Julia and Natalie's project.
The majority of comments came from people over 30. That comes as a surprise because Generation25 is crazy about the Internet and grew up in a digital age, unlike their parents and grandparents. Maybe this is stating the obvious as far as the younger generation is concerned. Clearly some sort of action is required. Those born after 1989 were the ones to come up with specific pragmatic and logical suggestions.
Sven, 12, writes, "More technology lessons in schools and support for girls and women." Sara, 16, has the same idea. "Lay the technical foundations at school and treat genders the same from the outset."
The discrepancy between Generation25 and everyday life in Germany's educational institutions – as if they were worlds apart – is best explained by Bjorn's comment. The 16-year-old writes, "Include the media that everyone uses these days – smartphones, tablets and computers – in the way we study." The fact that modern media tools aren't used in lessons at school is bordering on absurd. Older participants in the discussion also understood this sad state of affairs.
Kay, 47, believes that "such a focus on coding campaigns, such as Open Roberta by Fraunhofer, Google and Lego should be pushed forward as early as elementary school". And Jennifer, 27, says, "Make technology (such as video games) that girls today can get excited about and gets them interested in developing this kind of technology themselves later on."
Johannes, 26, makes a different point. "The best people to inspire women are other women, i.e. role models, and we already have some of them." That's true, as Benedict confirms. "Show them (women) what opportunities there are in the digital world and what the benefits of a connected world are."
These benefits of a connected world can only be revealed if the invisible barriers blocking access to technical and digital jobs can be broken down. Technology doesn't need these kind of clichés, but people do need to get actively involved. Programs such as Code Girls are advocates for closing the gender gap, so that people will one day no longer think of certain jobs as typically being for men or typically for women. To improve the situation in the short term, these kinds of initiatives need to be much more visible and, as Generation25 itself suggests, the education system needs to change. Perceptions need to change. Generation25 is calling for us to "end the taboo, fire up the laptop and get on with it."