Inspiring a generation of female coders

 
Sophie Deen
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Fairytale princesses might be less passive now than they used to be, but they certainly don’t code

Coding and digital literacy are a fundamental modern language and it is crucial to equip children with the skills and knowledge they need for their futures.

Kids need to understand the world they live in, and to do so, they need to understand code, and how computers work. By teaching these skills, our future workforce will be able to meet market demands, and continue to contribute to economic development.

Providing opportunities to individuals from underrepresented groups – including women, rural populations and minority ethnic groups – will result in an industry which can meet the demands of an increasingly diverse society.

Read more: Why India beats Britain for women in tech

Increasing diversity of those in STEM roles will lead to innovations that better us all.

Princesses don’t code

England is the first nation in the world to make coding compulsory for five-year-olds and above. This is a good start. But there are not yet enough resources – for teachers, and especially for parents and children – to demystify the new language and core concepts of the curriculum.

And there’s another problem when it comes to girls in particular. Women make up 18 per cent of computer science graduates, and represent just 12.8 per cent of the STEM workforce.

This is partly due to a lack of positive role models and toys for young children. Science-based toys are often marketed at boys, and everything pink and decorative is left for the girls. Fairytale princesses might be less passive now than they used to be, but they certainly don’t code.

Reflecting reality

As a society, we talk about needing more women and ethnic minorities in STEM, but our children’s stories rarely reflect that reality to them.

We set out to solve these two challenges. Our aim is to create inspiring role models and educationally rich materials, using the transformative power of technology to make sure we write stories that are fun, interactive and engaging.

Coding adventures

Bright Little Labs make books, apps, games and cartoons for kids that are educational, gender-neutral, and most importantly fun.

We know that the only way we can help kids engage with coding, or learning of any sort, is by making it really enjoyable. So we’ve made everything as entertaining as possible. For us, entertainment always comes first.

As well as bolstering learning around the UK computing curriculum (our content is mapped to children aged five to twelve), we also want to promote a more holistic and practical education for kids of all backgrounds – for example, learning about where tech comes from, problem solving, and how to make a selfie stick.

Detective Dot is the lead character in our series of coding adventure stories. She’s a nine-year-old coder spy on a secret mission. The book is all about providing kids with positive role models, so they can see the endless potential for their future selves.

Supporting women in STEM

Our aim – to empower women in technology – is supported by the everywoman in Technology Awards.

The Awards enable other young female entrepreneurs, especially women in tech, to find their own role models and envision their own successes. Highlighting the great work women do in STEM is key to encouraging more innovative and creative female leaders to rise up and change the world.

The 2018 FDM everywoman in Technology Awards are now open for nominations until 16 October, seeking individuals whose achievements will inspire next generation working in the UK technology industry.

Read more: Nearly three quarters of women don't consider a career in tech

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