Dismayed by seeing few female engineers at Apple developers conferences, Jean MacDonald, marketing chief at Smile and a friend of many of us at TidBITS, has decided to help bring more young women into the fold.
Jean, along with iOS developer Natalie Osten and TUAW editor Kelly Guimont, have launched a modest fundraiser to jumpstart their new nonprofit, App Camp for Girls. They’ve “alpha tested” a one-day version, have a free “beta test” camp later this month for 12 girls, and plan a regular session for 20 middle-school-age girls in August 2013. It’s part traditional summer camp, with the usual craft and physical activities, and part coding workshop.
The group turned to a crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo, which, unlike Kickstarter, will hand over whatever money is collected, even if the campaign doesn’t reach its $50,000 target. (It has reached that goal already, with plenty of time to spare!) Although I’m the father of two boys, I’ve contributed because I want everyone to be able to reach their potential. What I like about App Camp for Girls is that it aims to provide positive role models for girls and open the doors that are so often arbitrarily closed to women in technology.
College-age women have increasingly turned away from computer-science and engineering careers over the last 30 years. While you may think it’s a recent problem, some statistics show the percentage of undergraduate computer science degrees awarded to women was as high as 37 percent in 1984, but subsequently dropped to 29 percent in 1998 and to just 18 percent in 2010 (click the Low Participation link).
There are undoubtedly many reasons for both the disproportionate representation and this downward trend. But society suffers overall when one gender prevails in one of the most lucrative and fastest-growing sectors of white-collar employment. Coding is useful in every information-based job, and it’s a tool for both entrepreneurship and employee advancement.
Happily, App Camp for Girls is part of a larger trend to create opportunities for girls to get involved in programming and engineering by providing training within environments that strive to eliminate the social pressures and other discouragements still prevalent in the broader technology world.