My 16 year old daughter just walked into her very first coding workshop, and the only comfort I could give her was via text. This two day free workshop was put together by Rails Girls L.A., to expose young girls and women to coding. Their aim to provide the tools and create a community for women to understand technology was reached with record high attendance this year of 3oo. They create a great experience by having mentors and coaches give attendees a look under the hood of technology and web development.
Tech Is For Guys and Geeks
Just a weeks prior I’d enrolled us for the class. I thought that by going together my daughter would be more open to trying it. Now, she was on her own. Unfortunately, I had a conflict in my schedule and had to be in San Diego at a conference. Not wanting her to miss the opportunity, I pushed her to go. “Mom I hate tech, this is so lame,” she told me weeks earlier when I brought up the idea about learning to code. “I’m not good at it and I won’t know anyone who’s going,” she protested. This from a girl who uses her cell and laptop at the same time, and programs all our apps when we get new phones.
Well you’re pretty handy with the iPhone and laptop you’ll be fine, I assured her. “That’s different,” she quickly replied.
Did you know Latinos have now become one of the largest consumer in the U.S.? We need to become creators and not just consumers, I lectured. For some reason that was met with an eyeroll. Seeing that angle wasn’t working I decided to pull at her heart strings. I told my daughter, you love volunteering with autistic kids right? Well, what if learning code could help you come up with technology that would make their life easier?” “Ok mom I get it I’ll go,” she responded. Days before the event however she hinted that coding was for guys who are gamers and girls who are really smart when it comes to tech.
A Whole New World
“Its like learning a whole new language, its pretty cool”
Before heading down to San Diego I reassured her she’d be fine. It just so happen that a girlfriend of mine would be attending the workshop so she would at least know someone. Only thing on the day of the event my girlfriend and daughter had trouble finding one another in the sea of 300.
A text “Mom, this is awkward can you text your friend?” was soon followed by, “Mom I found her!” just a few minutes later. My girlfriend Sara turned out to be a great mentor, she was there to comfort her, but left her to explore and learn to fend for herself.
Later that night when we talked on the phone she’d told me “Its like a whole new language mom, its pretty cool.” She made new friends and even found out they weren’t so different. “I met a few girls and we even had lunch together. They liked to play sport, some even played soccer like me, but they love coding, too.”
Code Has No Color
Creator of Angry Birds
When I returned on Sunday I really got to experience what coding can do for a teen. My one hesitant and doubtful daughter, came back confident and excited. She opened her laptop to show me a whole new world called coding, and in it she was proud, confident, and knew a whole other language. When I asked if she saw other young Latinas there her response took a while. “I guess I hadn’t noticed, we were all there to code.” Coding, it seems is one language and one color…tech. Later she mentioned being one of the few Latinas in the workshop.
With so many off and online free or low cost organizations to get our nenas to code there is no excuse why we shouldn’t take advantage. Exposure, being an example, and creating a network will certainly take away their intimidation when it comes to tech. Check out programs like Rails Girls, Latinitas, Code.org, Code2040 and KaporCenter. To learn more on how you can help foster your daughters future in tech today
Will my daughter go into STEM? Perhaps. For now her love and interest are in sports therapy and working with Autistic children. Exposing her to tech via coding is just another way to arm her with choices and knowledge. Whatever my daughter decides I know that she’ll have an impact in the world. That, is enough to make me proud to call her my daughter.