Girls can code.14 Sep 2015
This week BBC Three started a new series with the above title. I got sent the advert for it the other week and thought “OH DEAR GOD LORD PLEASE NO DON’T DO THIS”, because when you open a program about tech with a girl saying “I think tech is rubbish”, the rest of it really doesn’t seem to have that much going for it.
Unlike a few of my friends on Twitter and Facebook, my overall feeling didn’t stray too far from my initial reaction.
The program essentially follows the paths of five young women who are roughly the same age as me or a bit younger who aren’t a fan of tech. The type of girly girls who take selfies, dress themselves in a more feminine way than I do and in general think consuming technology is their place.
The idea is to show them the best of tech - from what children are being taught about making jam sandwiches as robots to producing games.
Fine, fab, brilliant, just what we need to do: take the best, show them who built it and that they could do the same thing.
The first issue I take with the program is so many of the roles presented are not technical. The girls are shown programs run on step by step instructions and will only do what you tell them by children, but don’t write code.
I attended an event a couple of years ago for a major tech company which was a diversity intro day. All I was presented with were the women from HR, marketing, business etc and we produced an app design in teams but no actual code. To me this once again was a big sign in my face saying “this is what you’re meant to do, not the complex stuff you enjoy”. It pissed me off so much that whilst I respect the company for the technology they produce, they will probably always have a black mark in my book until I see something spectacular that swings it for me.
Back to the program. If tech roles being barely represented wasn’t bad enough, any time the women are doing anything technical it’s a man helping them to do it, or even worse, a man doing it for them. As someone who works in the usual office space where I’m one of two women in the room, I appreciate honesty that this is what tech looks like, but at the same time I know that if you present better role models that the target audience can see themselves as, it’s probably a better way to get them thinking “that could be me”.
On the flip side, there’s a lot of female role models, including Dr. Sue Black who is living proof that if she can do it with what she’s had to deal with, so can anyone else. Again though, of those who are presented as female role models, maybe two out of them are technical. Still not seeing the title being fairly represented, here.
The next issue I take with the program is that I’m not a girly girl. Nor am I a total nerd. I’m somewhere in between. I rarely wear makeup, doesn’t mean I don’t like wearing it for a special occasion and looking in the mirror going “god I’m gorgeous”. I want to look presentable on a day to day occasion, but in general I like and am happy with who I am, how I dress and what my face looks like without having to be uncomfortably dressed. Not everyone’s that lucky, my parents just managed to avoid teaching me to care. That’s probably my super power. The program’s subjects suffer from a lack of diversity for me - one of them loves gaming, I appreciate that, there’s another one that’s an art student, but mostly, they’re all girly girls. I don’t see myself before I joined the tech industry represented in the program, and it’s not like I’ve been interested in technology since birth. If we’re to get more girls interested, we need to cater for all the amazing and different interests young women have.
I also think there’s far more mind-blowing technology to be shown, but to some extent this goes back to my point on diverse subjects. If you are going to influence how people think about technology when they have no desire to enter that industry or understand how it works, then you have to use what they’re interested in.
Overall…I will give it a second chance next week, but right now I’m annoyed and frustrated at a lot of the show’s content. I’m very much praying it will get better.
If you’re interested, here’s the iPlayer link