Coding across the gender gap

Issue: Volume 97, Number 12

Posted: 11 July 2018
Reference #: 1H9jab

Tawa local Merridy Marshall helps out wherever she can at Tawa Intermediate, including helping out at the Code Club. She shares the skills she’s acquired over the course of a long career in the tech industry.

Now a tech consultant, Merridy says that the gender gap in the tech sector is very real, with the issue starting right back with very young children.

“I still find with kids as young as six or seven, there is this perception that coding or robotics is a ‘boy thing’, and it really surprises me, maybe because it’s my chosen career, because tech is involved in everything now.”

For Merridy, the overarching goal is bigger than just closing the gender gap in tech. She wants to see much more diversity in the sector, and knows that it will be the children like those involved in the She Can Code class, which is designed to get young women involved with tech, that will drive that for the future.

“I think it’s really important that we have a really diverse group of people developing the next generation of technology, so that it’s suitable for the whole world – people who were born in New Zealand, people who weren’t, old, young, boys, girls, digitally confident people or people who aren’t. We need all those kind of people involved in the IT sector. I try to look for initiatives that are creating an environment where the next generation of IT savvy people are a diverse audience,” says Merridy.

“As IT becomes more embedded in everything we do, I see digital confidence as something that is as important now as being able to drive a car was when I was much younger. It didn’t necessarily mean that you were going to become a taxi driver, but you might want to be a nanny for example, and if you could drive a car you’ve got more employment options. I think digital confidence is the same thing for our kids’ generation.”

Tawa Intermediate STEM teacher Reece Savill says that Merridy has become a great resource in his classroom. She is seen as a role model by students, and she can also help fill in gaps in his own knowledge.

“Having Merridy come in and help me run the Code Club is actually really important. It’s great for the kids to see this kind of whānau engagement, and also for the girls to see someone in her industry taking the time out of their lives to share their knowledge and expertise.

“It’s important for young women to see that the tech sector isn’t just a ‘boys’ game’.”

Reece says that there are groups in his school, that go wider than just girls, that he’s found very hard to engage in tech and STEM.

“I’m not really sure if it’s some kind of stereotype that comes with these industries, but there are definitely walls that need to be broken down.”

Reece sees recent events like She Can Code as essential to the continual erosion of old attitudes and stereotypes.

“Events like She Can Code gives girls and young women an environment where they can come and be themselves, invite their friends, and just highlight that anyone is capable of giving it a go, at whatever level.”

In the IT sector these days, we look for people who have soft skills, are creative thinkers, and innovators. We use technology to solve real world problems, and I think that is something that goes down really well with the groups of girls that I’ve coached,” says Merridy. 

To help combat stereotypes prevailing the tech industry, the new Digital Technologies & Hangarau Matihiko curriculum content that was released into the National Curricula in December 2017 has been made available for students from Year 1 onwards.

For more information visit: Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko learning(external link)

She Can Code

She Can Code was an event run by Code Club Aotearoa to inspire young women to get involved with the tech industry, create digital confidence and overcome stubborn stereotypes, while having heaps of fun. Code Club Aotearoa is run entirely by volunteers who give up their free time to give every kiwi kid the opportunity to learn to code. Many of these volunteers also work in the tech industry. The She Can Code event included coding projects for beginners, a competition for schools and clubs, stories about some of Aotearoa’s amazing coders, and a tweetstorm of images of people coding around the country.

This year’s event, which happened in May, is particularly significant, given that 2018 marks the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa. Over 5,000 people around the country participated. To find out more or to get involved with She Can Code, visit link)


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:29 pm, 11 July 2018

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