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July 1, 2017

Wonder Woman and Google team up to make coding fun for girls

By ITU News

Wonder Woman and Google’s Made with Code have teamed up to create an interactive game where players code three unique scenes from the newly released movie using programming concepts in an effort to encourage young girls’ interest in Computer Science.

Given that early exposure to STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is a significant catalyst for developing scholastic and vocational interest in the field, Google’s newest project is part of a wave of initiatives to inspire young girls to pursue Computer Science and coding.

“Code is, and always will, touch nearly every industry that shapes our world. And it’s not just about coding – it’s about learning the problem-solving, future-thinking mindset that is critical to becoming strong and effective leaders and visionaries,” said Jackie Lau, Product Marketing Manager with Google/Made with Code in an interview with ITU News. “It’s important that women have a seat at the table. Women shouldn’t just be consuming tech, they should be creating it.”

Why it matters

Jobs in Computer Science may be some of the highest-paying over the next decade as well as one of the most promising fields for young graduates, as top-paid jobs increasingly call for STEM-subject capabilities. Yet far too few girls are taking advantage of the trend. For instance, while 74% of girls in middle school in the United States express interest in STEM subjects, only 20% of young women intend to major in a STEM field, compared to 50% of young men, according to the Girl Scout Research Institute.

While encouragement from adults and peers is the most influential factor in pursuing a Computer Science degree, according to Google’s own research, early exposure to computing can make a real difference. A joint study produced by Accenture and Girls Who Code has shown that exposure to computing during junior high school years results in an 18% increased likelihood for girls to show interest in the subject throughout high school and college, although gains made during this period can also be easily lost due to lack of exposure.

How it works

This is where Made with Code comes in, making code fun and relevant. Launched in 2014, the initiative has served as a launch pad into Computer Science by making code relatable and accessible for young girls everywhere. Made with Code has inspired millions of teenage girls to take their first step in coding, says Lau.

In addition to providing toolkits for parents and teachers to promote a community around Computer Science activities, Made with Code aggregates a wealth of resources, both Google-made and those of partner organizations such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Scratch and the Mozilla Foundation’s Thimble, in an easy-to-navigate space for the user to explore Computer Science at all levels of experience. Made with Code’s own project bank allows the user to explore the diverse possibilities of code – from designing a dress, to making music, to helping solve problems with the characters of blockbuster movies such as Wonder Woman and Inside Out.

“Women shouldn’t just be consuming tech, they should be creating it.” — Jackie Lau, Google/Made with Code

By basing the technology on Blockly, a Google programming editor that uses visual blocks to create coding experiences, the projects aim to provide an intuitive and unintimidating introduction to the concepts and logic of coding through eliminating the syntax battle that beginners find most challenging about programming – and allowing the user to focus on the logic behind the core concepts of code. An international format which exports to many programming languages including Python and JavaScript, Blockly emphasizes the story-telling, communicative nature of coding and has been translated into over 40 languages – a feat made possible through its open-source nature.

Wonder Woman – warrior and princess created with code

Google’s choice to collaborate with Wonder Woman for the project is particularly relevant given the status of its main character as a feminist icon, as well as the movie’s great success as the highest-grossing live-action movie by a solo female director, Patty Jenkins.

“Wonder Woman, at its core, is a movie about girl power. Wonder Woman is a strong woman who holds equal weight to the male superheroes in the DC universe,” says Lau. “Made with Code wants all teen girls to see themselves as Wonder Women in their own world.”

Initiatives and partnerships to familiarize young girls with Computer Science are a significant push in the effort to equalize the gender imbalance in tech. By encouraging the interest and curiosity of young girls in Computer Science, we are encouraging their participation in one of the fastest-growing and most lucrative sectors of our time and offering them the opportunity to close the gender pay gap.

Note: ITU and UN Women’s annual EQUALS in Tech Award recognizes projects and initiatives that are empowering women and girls with access, skills and leadership in tech. Nominations are now open here.

By Pamela Dahlia Lian (@DahliaLian), ITU News

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ITU is the United Nations' specialized agency for information and communication technology. Any opinions expressed and statistics presented by third parties do not necessarily reflect the views of ITU.

Wonder Woman and Google team up to make coding fun for girls

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