April 26, 2017

Making waves as a Girl in ICT: Niamh Scanlon inspires girls to learn to code

By ITU News

On International Girls in ICT Day on April 27, thousands of girls around the world are celebrating the incredible power of technology to open doors of possibilities for young women and girls worldwide.

One girl has made waves in the tech scene in her home country of Ireland, and those waves have swept across the world, leading to her to become an award-winning coder and the EU Digital Girl of the Year in 2015.

Now aged 14, Niamh Scanlon is no stranger to encouraging girls to develop an interest in technology. In her recent TEDx talk at Dublin City University, Give kids a chance for a future of change, Niamh shows that if we are to empower young people – and especially girls – to learn to code, to increase their problem-solving abilities and to use their imaginations to create, then we must listen to the voices of the girls themselves.

From student to mentor

So how did Niamh go from a student in an afterschool coding class to a world-famous advocate and mentor? And how did she develop this love of tech and go from student to teacher? It’s simple: she had fun and she had support.

Niamh started attending CoderDojo at Dublin City University (DCU), a global community of free, mentored sessions for young people to learn to code, when she was only nine years old. Enjoying the experience of trying new things in a safe space dedicated to supporting young people opened up a door to a world where anything was possible.

By age 10 she herself was mentoring in a girls-only class set up in DCU to encourage girls to attend with their friends. That class went from three girls to 20, and CoderDojo is now encouraging more CoderDojo Girls worldwide.

As the technology industry is still considered a male-dominated field, it is essential to reach out to young girls to show that technology is not intimidating or complicated, in fact it is a fun way to use creativity to build something new.

At the South by Southwest conference last month, Scanlon spoke about her own experience of taking part as a mentor in CoderDojo Girls.

“I think it is really important to get more young girls involved because we need more diversity in tech,” said Niamh. “So if we start now we can get more women – as they grow up, the girls who learn to code now [might] start in a tech company when they are older.”

Like Niamh, there are thousands of girls who have tried coding and loved it. But we need more parents and teachers to introduce the topic in a way that appeals to young girls. And Girls in ICT Day is the perfect time to talk to young women about how coding can change lives.

The power of parents

Claire O’Connell, Niamh’s mom, who brought her daughter to her first coding class over 5 years ago couldn’t then imagine the effect it would have.

“I was happy to see Niamh learning about technology in a creative environment, and the main thing was that she was having fun, so she wanted to keep going back to learn more,” said Ms O’Connell. “Then, with the support of the CoderDojo community, Niamh was able to encourage more young people to create with code. By doing this they can build their knowledge of and confidence with technology, and it opens up new opportunities for thinking about and changing the world.”

As more coding bootcamps and academies open up in cities across globe, there are more and more opportunities for young girls to enter the exciting world of technology.

On Girls in ICT Day we encourage girls, women, moms and dads, schools and tech companies to take part in opening up these discussions and to join the wave for Girls in ICT to create an ocean of change in the lives of young women and girls across the globe.

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Making waves as a Girl in ICT: Niamh Scanlon inspires girls to learn to code

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