by Erin Aucoin
I have a question for you. Can you even remember the last time you spent a day without using technology? Probably not, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Computers and technology have become so engrained in our lives because they are extremely useful and computer science is arguably the fastest growing career field. You would think that we, as a society would be encouraging everyone to take advantage of this and to be more computer literate. But we’re not.
Only 30% of Math and Computer Science students in Canada1 are female even though the job prospects for computer science students are consistently among the most promising2. In a time where most of the revolutionary products are technology related, this statistic is very discouraging.
My name is Erin and I started a society for Women in Science at St. Francis Xavier University this year. I was inspired to do so for a couple of reasons. First, I am the only graduating female physics student this year and this has led to quite a few interesting conversations. Secondly, I have spent two summers working for the X-Chem Science Camps at St.FX organizing the computer science camp and it was easy to see that the girls loved the activities just as much as the boys. I think that there are a lot of fields of science and technology, which severely lack women. A lot of really smart women don’t even consider a career in physics, engineering or computer science and this is a shame.
Women often think that coding isn’t for them because virtually all of the big names in tech are men (think of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk) and we rarely hear about the female pioneers of computer science Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson (featured in the movie Hidden Figures)
or the current female influencers in the field like Helen Greiner6 and Marissa Mayer7.
Beyond this, the most fun part of computer science, video games, are generally marketed towards boys. Even though there twice as many women over 18 playing video games as boys under 18.
Computer science is everywhere so I think that EVERYONE should learn how to code! With this week being Computer Science Education Week, it’s the perfect time to teach yourself a little bit of programming!
The great thing about computer science is how easy it is to start! There are thousands of tutorials online which will teach you the basics of any programming language you want. My favourites are Code.org, Scratch.mit.edu, and Codecademy.com. The first two are especially great for kids because they let you start programming right away without having to learn any of the syntax (commas and semi-colons that have to be in just the right spot).
In my opinion, one of the most rewarding feelings is coding your first program, getting the computer to draw a red circle or add some numbers together or even just to say “Hello World!” It doesn’t matter how much of a background you have in technology, you just have to decide to start!
Happy Computer Science Education Week!
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Sources: 1 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2013001/article/11874-eng.htm 2 http://www.monster.ca/career-advice/article/highest-paying-degrees-in-canada-ca 3 https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ada-Lovelace 4 http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/code-and-the-quest-for-inclusive-software 5 https://www.nasa.gov/feature/katherine-johnson-the-girl-who-loved-to-count 6 http://www.inc.com/will-yakowicz/best-industries-2016-drone-manufacturing.html 7 http://www.leadersbiography.com/marissa-mayer/