Why We Must Teach Girls to Program–A Women Developer Speaks

I got this story on my blog in response to a presentation I did (on .NET Rocks) about TKP and thought you might enjoy reading it. Details have been obscured on request.

“I heard your Podcast about Teaching Kids to Program and it was really inspiring, especially the new course work you are developing. I was impressed by Small Basic as a teaching tool. I am a developer <at a major corporation> and work as a corporate web application developer/dba. I do not teach for the very reason stated - I cannot afford to!

I won't be able to volunteer to teach locally for awhile as I am trying to start an online media company (while working a ft corporate job). However, I think the work you are doing is very important and am very happy to see Microsoft support it. We definitely need to have programming taught well in public schools and I know they still don't do this.

I myself learned to program at 8 y.o when my father bought my sister and I a Commodore-64. I learned on my own in a similar fashion as your courses because I had Turtle Logo and a sprite maker and remember to this day the sheer joy of those first programs. Sadly, when I got to 7th grade, I was quickly labeled a nerd and ostracized by the other girls because I was a computer whiz (we did live in a rural area). I remember completely dropping all interest in programming when my girlfriends made fun of me - even though my parents were educators that encouraged me.

Once I got to high school, I was strongly encouraged to take advanced math and science classes, but the 1 programming class was full of boys and very intimidating. I took it and other girls continued to actively ostracized me. I eventually went to <major US university> and although I see now I had talent, majored in <Liberal Arts topic> instead of Computer Science or Symbolic systems because I was convinced computer programmers were geeks and uncool.

It was 1994 when I graduated, however, and a combination of economic reality, the exciting development on <products of that time> and the encouragement of important men in my life led me to begin developing a career as an IT developer. I have now been an IT developer for 15 years and love programming and learning and implementing new technology!

I send you this story because I think it points out the importance of the programming classes you are teaching to girls. Even though I had family support and educational support, I really did not pursue becoming a programmer until after college because of all the negative peer pressure from other girls.

I think that good quality programming classes for girls help to both teach programming concepts and to break stereotypes of programmers. It also helps programming become a mainstream educational topic instead of just being a topic for geeks. I will also note that I am the only female Caucasian on my development team at work. We have many IT women educated in India and plenty of men of every ethnicity, but no American educated women. Hopefully that will change! Keep up the good work! It is very needed! I hope to do my part in the years to come.”