Every year, the fourth Thursday in April is celebrated as International Girls In ICT Day, when a spotlight is put on encouraging and mentoring girls and young women to pursue careers in ICT. The day is set aside for events, workshops and classes to be held around the world under the International Girls In ICT Day banner.
Here in South Africa there’s been a few events, most notably at Intel’s Woodmead offices in Joburg where we dropped by to look in on the Girls Invent Tomorrow again as they hosted a coding workshop for a group of 20 senior high school girls in grades 10 to 12 from Westbury Secondary School.
Each one of these girls has chosen school subjects that fall within STEM, with a handful of them wanting to go into tech and programming in the near future.
The room is filled with excitement and eagerness as the girls are introduced to the basics of coding through a step-by-step tutorial using a coding program called Alice. Their “lecturer” for the day is Lebogang Madise, a developer from Microsoft who offeres talks and coding workshops across the country to young people.
“I’m here today to inspire these young girls to consider going into coding or any ICT related career because there aren’t many females in the industry,” Madise says. “I try to prepare them by telling them about my own experiences because I went into varsity only knowing the dictionary meaning of coding, had I known about programs such as Alice and how to use it, I would’ve been better prepared. So I think we may have started something here and if these girls can continue with this, it would be a plus.”
“Today’s event is about getting girls to understand what coding is about, because the world is changing and being a programmer is becoming a big thing,” explains Thuli Sibeko, co-founder of Girls Invent Tomorrow. “This is the first coding workshop we’re hosting for high school girls, we work with a certain company to identify girls from grade 10 to 12 in certain schools who are interested in STEM. The reason we are hosting these workshops is that we want to expose young girls to other careers and make them see that careers are not just about being a doctor, lawyer, nurse aand so on. The world is their oyster in terms of technology and we don’t want them to limit themselves in terms of what they choose when they leave school.”
Most of the girls at the workshop say they want to pursue careers in STEM, with some mentioning science, IT, architecture and engineering as the career path they want to pursue after they finish high school.
In her address to the girls, Sibeko mentions how she’d love to see the next Mark Zuckerberg being a woman, and if all goes well, Veronica Wheats who’s in grade 10 at Westbury Secondary, may just be that woman.
“Today’s workshop was really eye-opening and has changed my perspective of programming. I want to one day create my own social network and to achieve that, I want to start off by joining Google as an intern just to get a start and to learn more,” says Veronica.
Although today’s workshop is short and is only an introduction to coding, Intel SA and Girls Invent Tomorrow hope that these young girls will be inspired to start their own coding club and teach other girls like them to code. Lebohang has given the girls the Alice program so that they can go on and use it at school and at home. Intel SA and Girls Invent Tomorrow will be hosting a holiday workshop during the June school holidays, giving the Westbury Secondary girls and other girls from different schools the opportunity to delve deeper into coding and learn more about it as a career.
“We will be doing more workshops this year. In the long term, we plan to go around to different schools and into their computer centres to do such workshops and, reach more girls empower them at their schools,” concludes Thuli.
Hit the gallery below to see more photos of the Girls In ICT Day workshop.