Features Friday, September 19, 2014 - 05:30
Teresa Bousa | SEPTEMBER 16, 2014 | 10:29PM IST San Francisco : Internet giant Google is seeking to teach computer programming to millions of girls in the US under its Made With Code initiative, which has an eye on developing women programmers in the Silicon Valley. "Less than one percent of high school girls are interested in studying computer science. This is the problem we are addressing," Made With Code spokesperson Kate Parker told Efe news agency. The initiative was launched in mid-June and, over the next three years, Google will set aside $50 million for the programme. The project began against the backdrop of an ongoing debate about the lack of gender as well as racial diversity in the Silicon Valley. For example, only 30 percent of Google's employees are women. A similar gender disparity, if not worse, exists in other companies like Twitter, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. To resolve the problem, Google seeks to go to the root: the lack of interest among girls in programming and computer science, as only 18 percent of all students majoring in the subject in the US are women. This figure is well below the 37 percent recorded during the 1980s, and the trend contributes to the existing male dominance in Silicon Valley. According to Google, this lack of interest among girls is due to them not relating programming with the fields of their interest, not realising that other girls do it too or not knowing that they can do well in this field. "We look to change the perception about programming. We hope that once the girls see all the incredible things computers can do, they develop an interest in the subject," Parker said. Made With Code will organise events where girls will be invited to do programming together and discover that computer programme codes can be used to make and print bracelets using 3D printers, design accessories to superimpose on "selfies" or compose an instrumental piece. The initiative will also have a strong virtual presence which Google considers as extremely important for a wider reach. The website of Made With Code draws the attention of girls to the fact that many of the things they like are made using codes, and even includes simple classes to enable them to take their first steps in programming. The website, which has pink overtones, also includes several videos where young people like Miral Kotb explain how coding and dance go hand-in-hand in Broadway musicals. In other videos, girls successful in their fields narrate how computer technology can help to combat diseases and crime, design video games and create special-effects in movies made at Pixar studios. "The message we are trying to convey is that programming and computer technology is a naturally creative field and serves as a gateway to many industries and other diverse fields," Parker emphasised. "We want the girls to understand that basic knowledge of computers is necessary for anything they want to do when they grow up," she added. Susan Wojcicki, a Youtube representative, said during the launch of Made With Code that programming is "a new form of alphabetisation and offers the possibility to create, innovate and, literally, change the world". Google will seek the support of parents and teacher, which it considers crucial for the girls to progress in this field. The company is also associated with organisations like the Girl Scouts of the USA, National Centre for Women and Information Technology, Teach for America and Unicef, among others, in order to present the initiative to young people in their networks. The US Department of Labour estimates that by 2020 there will be over 1.4 million job vacancies in the field of computer science, but going by the present rate, only 30 percent of these posts will be filled by graduates from the US who are competent in the field. IANS/EFE
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