Chris sat down with Marta Martinez-Cámara and Miranda Kreković to learn how GirlsCoding.org is inspiring 9–16-year-old girls to learn about computer science. The site is successfully empowering young women to recognize computer science as a valid career choice through hands-on workshops, role models, and by smashing prevalent gender stereotypes. This is an episode that you’ll want to listen to with your daughter!
Fastly – Our bandwidth partner. Fastly powers fast, secure, and scalable digital experiences. Move beyond your content delivery network to their powerful edge cloud platform. Learn more at fastly.com.
Linode – Our cloud server of choice. Deploy a fast, efficient, native SSD cloud server for only $5/month. Get 4 months free using the code
changelog2018. Start your server - head to linode.com/changelog
Algolia – Our search partner. Algolia’s full suite search APIs enable teams to develop unique search and discovery experiences across all platforms and devices. We’re using Algolia to power our site search here at Changelog.com. Get started for free and learn more at algolia.com.
Welcome to the Practical AI Podcast. This is Chris Benson, your co-host, as well as the chief AI strategist at Lockheed Martin, RMA APA Innovations. This week you’re going to hear one of a series of episodes recorded in late January, 2019 at the Applied Machine Learning Days Conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.
My co-host, Daniel Whitenack, was going to join me, but had to cancel for personal reasons shortly before the conference. Please forgive the noise of the conference in the background. I recorded right in the midst of the flurry of conference activities. Separately from the podcast, Daniel successfully managed the AI For Good track at Applied Machine Learning Days from America, and I was one of the speakers. Now, without further delay, I hope you enjoy the interview.
My guests today are Marta Martinez-Cámara and Miranda Kreković. They are the co-founders of GirlsCoding.org. I had the pleasure of meeting them a couple of evenings ago at a speakers dinner; we were in line together, and they had a fascinating story about what they have created, so I am delighted to have you both on the podcast today.
Thank you for coming on. Can you tell me a little bit about each of you, and how you got here?
Sure. Well, thank you for making this podcast with us. I am Marta, I live in Lausanne, Switzerland, but I grew up in Spain, and I am a computer scientist. I finished my Ph.D. a couple years ago here in the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Now I am also working as a scientist in a startup, and together with Miranda and with more people we are running GirlsCoding.org.
Thank you for inviting us. My name is Miranda, and I come from Croatia. That’s where I studied and I finished my bachelors and masters in computer science, and now I’m doing my Ph.D. at the same university that Marta mentioned, EPFL. I am in the fifth year, and I hope to graduate very soon. That’s where I’m at. Marta and I, about two years ago, we started GirlsCoding.
Could you share with me a little bit of both how the two of you met, where did the passion come from for this, why GirlsCoding specifically, and what was your founders story on how you got all this started and off the ground? What were those early days like?
We met because we were working together in the same lab. We shared many hours and many coffees together. Here in Switzerland the IT domain is really male-dominated… So we were teaching, and most of the class were guys; we were going to conferences and most of the people there were guys, it was difficult to find a woman. Also, when we were going to the internships in the industry, also we were always the only women in the team.
[00:03:52.26] We were talking about all this one day while we were having coffee, and then we said “Let’s do something about. Let’s not just complain about it, let’s do something about it.” Then we started to think what we could do, why there are not women in this domain, and then based on our personalized stories we concluded that we could improve the situation by working with very young girls, before they go to the university… Because at the university you already don’t have girls there, so you have to go before that.
And then because we lived this, we know what it is to go in a very male-dominated domain, and we know the struggles that you can have [unintelligible 00:04:43.12] you are very sensitive to these things, we decided to start work with young girls. The first thing that we did was in Spain, and maybe Miranda can tell you more about this.
Well, unfortunately I was not able to participate at this first workshop, because I was doing my internship in Mountainview, at Google, at the same time. But we decided to do it there, and in a very small village, where Marta comes from, because there she knew all the people and it was easy to organize it. Her parents, her sister helped with recruiting the girls; one of her best friends is a teacher and she helped us to teach us how to work with little and young kids, because we don’t have much experience. So Marta and a few of our colleagues went to Spain, and there was a small group of about ten girls, I think, at the first workshop.
Then we also thought “What else can we do, more than just one workshop?” and then we decided to record a small, short video for them. I tried to give them a motivation speech to tell them where they can apply computer, so that it’s not just about coding and then writing some weird letters and words, but it’s gonna be applicable to so many domains, anything; even if they want to be designers, they can still apply computer science to that. That’s what I recorded. And I spoke in English, I don’t even speak Spanish… But when Marta showed it to the girls, it seemed that it really resonated with them, because for them it was a big deal that someone from Switzerland spoke to them, and now she’s in California - that was out of their world, because they come from a small village and they never went out of it, basically.
Then when we notice how huge of an impact this left on their lives, then we decided to go back to Spain again, but also to start it in Switzerland, because we both lived in Switzerland, so it was easier to start here as well.
And then there is a second part of this story with the workshops in Spain, because as Miranda said, we made a second workshop one year later there… And this time Miranda came there. In the moment that they saw – because all the girls came, and they also brought their friends, so we ended up with double the kids… But when they saw Miranda, it was like seeing a superstar. [laughs] They were super, super-happy, they were even trying to speak with her in English, even using Google Translate, and all kinds of means to communicate with her. They were writing everywhere “Miranda, I love you”, they were taking selfies with her.
Also, during the workshop we called another friend in Switzerland, and also for them it was like “Wow, talking with someone in Switzerland…”, and they were asking questions like “How many languages do you speak?” And of course, living in Switzerland, our friend speaks like three languages… Then they ask her, “But when did you learn French and English?” and she said “When I was ten.” That was their age, so they were like “Wow… There are persons that speak three languages at our age…!”
[00:08:14.21] We also did coding exercises with them, but the part of meeting the people and meeting our stories, and meeting people from all around the world is incredible for them, and we are sure they will always remember this.
Miranda, were you expecting to be such a role model for these girls? I mean, both of you, but as Marta has just talked about this story, what was it like? Were you expecting to kind of step into that role model persona and do that? I’m just curious what it was like in the very beginning, and whether or not you were anticipating going in, or whether that was just kind of “Whoa, look what’s happening to me…!”
No, it was a very big surprise to me. Our first idea of these workshops was really to initiate them into coding, to teach them a bit of what algorithms are, how to write code to show them that they can implement something which has some results… But then after this first workshop when we saw how big of an impact it has just by being role models and by telling our stories, we completely switched, basically, and now more than one half of our workshop is just about power talks and presentations, and telling us our stories, or telling the stories about computer science, or about some famous computer scientists, what they did in their childhood and how they became who they are.
Now, basically, a smaller part of the workshop is pure coding. It really became about the inspiration and about being role models.
Then one of our first presentations was called “Our daily job”, and we’d put one big photo of us here at the university, and then we would ask them questions like “Do we work with robots? Do we have robots in our offices?” Then they would all answer and participate, and then we would say [unintelligible 00:10:04.20]
Or, for example, do we have toys? And then there’s one of our colleagues who’s working with LEGOs, and when we asked “Do we have toys?”, they were like “No, you’re serious, you do a lot of math.” We were like “We do math, but we also play with LEGOs”, and then we showed them photos of LEGOs.
Or for example “What is math for you?” For them, math is just pure numbers and calculations. Then we showed them a photo of an image, or some colors, and “No, this is also math. If you want to apply some Instagram filters on your image, that’s math.” They were like, “Wow…!” They were mind-blown.
Marta, I would like to ask you, kind of going almost back to when you’re first having these girls in and you’re getting to know them, and stuff - what is their perspective? I really would like to gain some insight into – I have a dual motive… Separate from our conversation, I have a six-year-old daughter, and she has her friends, and stuff, and compared to the boys out there, who as we’re seeing at a conference like this (or any conference in technology), the men far outnumber the women, and hopefully that will change as the years go by… When they’re still very young, what is it that may keep them in their thinking, away from going into these fascinating technology fields? Why do you think the boys are doing it, and yet the girls, for whatever reason, don’t? Do you have any insight into that?
Well, that’s a really difficult question, but at least we had certain experiences that can give us some clues, I think. For example, once we did a workshop in an event that was open to the public; there were several workshops, and one of them was also about building video games for kids. This workshop – all the advertisements were in black and white colors; it was about building cars, and a dinosaur park, and things like this… And what happened is this workshop only had boys that went to it. I think it was because of the image it projected. But our workshops - we have this image that is more colorful, and more friendly, and that attracts girls, just seeing that.
[00:12:29.26] So it sounds almost like even these kind of intangibles in the marketing itself of an event - the color selection and what you choose to represent from the imagery - all those things that maybe most of us aren’t thinking about all the time can have an influence on that audience that they attract. If it tends to be boy-oriented things, things boys are more likely to gravitate toward, you end up with a group of boys doing it. So maybe as people are organizing these things going forward, should they be thinking about what will draw girls in, and do you have any suggestions for them based on both of your experience on what might work there?
Well, exactly what Marta said, I agree that when they advertise coding workshops for kids, they usually use dark colors… For no reason girls don’t come. I mean, not for the reason that they don’t like coding, but they just don’t know what coding is, and then they’re not attracted by such advertisements. But what we are surprised and what we really like after each workshop - we notice that girls, when they arrive, they’re neutral about coding, they don’t know much about it, they don’t know what it’s used for; they just don’t know much. But at the end of the workshop, they’re always positively oriented towards the idea of studying computer science.
And also, we are always surprised about the talent that they have. We also hear around this idea that girls or women don’t do computer science because they are not so good at it - this is not true. Absolutely not true. We see how talented the girls are, how creative… They are pseudo-afraid of coding. In fact, they love challenge. They always complain when it was too easy; they complain. But they never complain when it’s challenging, because they really like it. They really like to be challenged, because they know they can do it, they can do everything they want. They trust themselves a lot.
Do you have something to say as well, Miranda?
Yes. So it’s not that they don’t like computer science and that’s why they don’t come to such workshops; they just don’t know what it is, and what it can be, and how much they can do it very well.
At the first workshop we asked them what do they believe, why did we invite only girls, and not boys? And they were super-brave, they were saying “I know, I know! It’s because boys don’t know how to behave themselves. It’s nicer to work with us.” Or they were saying, “Yeah, we learn much faster than boys.” They were very brave and very courageous.
I wanted to turn toward the workshops themselves, and what you cover, both from a topic standpoint, and how you draw in the girls that are coming into the program to get them comfortable with coding… What’s this journey that you take these little girls on, could you describe that?
So now it’s been almost 2,5 years that we’ve been doing these workshops, so they converge something towards the following structure - at the beginning we play unplugged games. They don’t sit behind computers at the beginning, we just sit on the floor, and we want to show them what are algorithms and how they should talk to computers. So there’s one of us mentors who represents a robot, and we tell them that robots are very stupid. So the robots only know how to follow very simple and very well-defined instructions, and then the game is to create a sandwich, to make a sandwich of Nutella and two pieces of bread.
[00:16:10.13] Then girls, in round, they have to tell very precise instructions to the robot, how to make a Nutella sandwich… And that’s usually very funny, because the robot of course exaggerates, and if they are not precise and if they just say “Take some Nutella”, the robots puts its hand in a bottle of Nutella and gets very dirty. They have lots of fun and they laugh a lot, but through laughing they really learn, and later they remember when they write the code that they really need to be precise with the computer and tell everything in order, step by step.
After that, then we have power talks. These are short presentations given by our mentors, where they talk either about their experience, what they do in their lives, or as I mentioned earlier, about some famous scientist to inspire girls, especially about lady scientists from the past - what they did, how they arrived to that, and such things… So we have multiple power talks during one-day events. Every one hour we have a 15-minute break where we give a power talk, and they can ask any question they want. Usually, they are very curious and they have very smart questions.
Then after that we start with the workshop, with the content itself. It depends on the event, but we have several contents… Two days ago it was about machine learning, another one was about Instagram filters, and the third one was about chatbots. So girls at the age of 12 and 15, they wrote their own chatbot, and we were very proud of them.
That’s pretty amazing. I love that they’re getting into these topics at such an early age, and able to do that. I know that as you were talking, and listening to you - I come from a family mostly of women, and they code. So I grew up never realizing that outside of our family often girls didn’t code as much as the guys did. So as we’ve seen – once upon a time, I don’t know that I realized that we needed this, and as I’ve gotten out there in the world on my own and realized “Oh my gosh, everyone I’m meeting is male, and it’s all males doing this work”, it’s wonderful to see this.
In the field of machine learning, as you’re introducing these young ladies to this topic, how do they take to it? What are their thoughts on it as they have that first impression of it, and where are you encouraging them to go with it?
Well, we explain them machine learning telling them there are algorithms, or there is code that is not machine learning, which is when you tell the instructions. There are other problems where you cannot write the instructions because the problem is too complex, and the computer needs to learn on his own. Then we put a lot of examples about applications that use machine learning; fun, interactive applications, that they can use, so they get a feeling of it.
Also, we have a particular workshop that shows them how to build reinforcement learning algorithms with M&M’s, with a very simple game. So they understand it, they go through it, they can do it… So they are not scared of it at all, because they get how it goes, and they just want to do more with that. They just want to keep learning.
And what is amazing about the kids nowadays - they all have smartphones, they are all on computers online all the time, so they can really see the application of what we are doing there… And we can motivate them - we ask them “Who is using Snapchat?” and everyone raises up their hands. Then we tell them, “Okay, we are going to teach you how to detect faces. You know, that’s a problem in computer science; it’s not done by magic”, and then they’re all “Wow… This is computer science.” So it also makes it easier for us to motivate them and to inspire them.
I believed in what it used to be when I was growing up, and I couldn’t see all these examples, and we didn’t have smartphones… So I learned coding, but I didn’t really know where I’m going to apply it, so for me it was actually the other way around.
[00:20:15.24] And I think also an important fact as well is that AI can be applied to all the fields: art, transportation, health… So they see also how you really can do computer science to sort many kinds of problems; it’s not just computer science. You can like many things, and use computer science to improve these things. I think also that’s very important and very powerful for them
As you’re doing these workshops, what specific languages, what tools and frameworks are you applying? It sounds like most ladies that are entering your program are seeing it for the first time, or are relatively new to computer science in general. There’s so many languages, there’s so many different tools out there - what have you chosen to use in this process and why have you made the selections that you have?
From 12 to 15 we use Python, because I think it’s one of the most human coding languages. It’s very intuitive to use… And the tools that we use are Colaboratory Google notebooks. It’s a notebook, and also they are online, so they don’t need to install anything; it’s already there on the cloud, they just need an e-mail address and that’s it. It’s very easy for us. We don’t need to spend time setting up computers, and everything. And also, everything is open source, no licenses, nothing.
And when we work with 9 to 12-year-olds, we use Scratch, with Blocks. Again, it’s coming from the MIT, from a university, it’s open source, everything is online, we don’t need to install anything, so it’s just easy. So we just ask them to bring their laptop, because now everyone has a laptop at home. So they bring their laptops, and also an advantage of that is they go home and they can keep working on that. They don’t need extra robots, or things. They can keep using it, and this is also very important for us. That’s why we made this decision of keeping it as simple as possible for them.
It’s funny that you mentioned that. Obviously, all of us in the machine learning world are into Python; that seems to be one of the - if not the main language, certainly one of the top languages for the field. But you mentioned Scratch as well, and you probably – the listeners can’t see it, but I smiled in a big way when you said that. My six-year-old daughter and Athena and I spend a lot of time on Scratch these days, and she’s starting to program robots, and we have some drones at the house, and all that, and she just lights up. It’s something very accessible to her, so I certainly understand; that must be a thrill when they do that. I know my daughter loves it.
When we organized an event at a big conference that was open to public, there we accepted both boys and girls, and then we could see immediately - when the girls open Scratch, there is a main character which is a cat… So girls changed this cat to a princess or a unicorn, and boys changed it to a dinosaur or a car - which is all fine, and that’s why Scratch is also great - as long as they do their if-then algorithm and the cat says the number, or whatever we tell them to do. It’s great that they can be creative and they can adapt to what they like, and at the same time learn a lot.
As a young lady comes through the program, these workshops that you’re doing, obviously you get to the end of the workshop - how do you set them up for the next step? Because obviously you’ve now gotten them excited about the topic, and they’ve just had a great success through the workshop, so they’re about to go out, back into the world, and out of your care at that moment; what do you do, what do you tell them, how do you direct them on where to go next?
[00:23:59.16] Well, this is also something quite tough to do. We decided that we are not a coding academy or coding school, because in that case we would work with boys and girls. We just want to motivate them and be role models for them. So once they come to one workshop, if they like it, they learn what is computer science, they learn what is coding, they learn they can do it; it’s not magic, everyone can do it… Then our job somehow is then – now what we see, and talking with parents, there is a big lack of computer science education for kids around.
Parents write to us a bit desperately “Where can I take my son/daughter now? How can they keep learning?” What we tell them is that “Okay, you can always stay in touch with us, and also you have all these resources on the internet - exercises, and so on”, but still we see that there is a bit of a lack in education in coding nowadays. It’s a huge problem, and we don’t have the capacity to solve it. We are just a bit frustrated when we see that, but… It’s moving. It will just take some time, I think.
You mentioned capacity, so am I correct in thinking this is kind of a side project for you guys personally? It’s something you do because you love it. What is your capacity? How many people – is it just the two of you? Do you have more people involved? It sounded like in the workshops that you may have some other people. How many people are involved, and how far are you able to touch, and where are you going? What do you think your story of your own future in this endeavor is gonna be?
Well, it started only with Marta and me, but then as soon as we talked about our idea to our colleagues in the lab, already two or three people just jumped in and they wanted to help. At the first workshop we were about maybe four or five. And also, here in Switzerland it’s a particular problem with languages, so most of our colleagues are foreigners and they don’t speak French perfectly… But then girls are also just amazing; at the age of ten they speak three or four languages. So that was not the problem, but it was nice to have mentors who speak also multiple languages, so that we can adapt during the workshop.
So more and more mentors are joining us, talking to their friends and to their colleagues. Then we created a website, we put a form - if you want to help and volunteer, sign up here. We kept receiving e-mails. Each time we organize a workshop at bigger events such as Applied Machine Learning Days, we meet people “Oh, I saw you’re involved in girls coding. I want to help. How can I help? Tell me what to do.”
We didn’t go there and said “Okay, we need people.” Suddenly, it just happened, and all these friends and colleagues, and friends of friends of friends were writing to us and joined. At the last event we were about 30 mentors only at the event, and we had about 30 girls and 30 mentors… But in total, we are more than 50, I think, if we count all the mentors who ever participated at the workshop.
Also, what was nice - once we organized the workshop in Logitech for the daughters of the employees, and then as soon as we decided to do that, the only female engineer at Logitech here in Switzerland, she wrote to us and she said that she really wants to help, and to be involved. Then all her colleagues also wanted to help… So it’s very, very rewarding for us to hear that we leave such impact, not only on girls, but also on our colleagues who want to help.
And not only mentors, we also have organizations supporting us. We have foundations who help us with the branding, and now we have super-cool branding thanks to them. Also, we have tech companies sponsoring events, and asking us how they can help, because they know the problem, they have this problem. So yeah, as Miranda said, just to suddenly see all these people jumping at us, saying “How can we help? We need to do something about this, because this is what is happening. It will be nice if this changed at some point.”
[00:28:20.24] So with all the success that you guys are having, could you ever envision taking it to a next level and making it the centerpiece of your career? Do you think it will always be this amazing thing you’re doing on the side? Are you going to keep it just this voluntary thing where people can opt-in and help out - is that kind of the future of it, or…?
Yeah, for the moment we are trying to make it sustainable, and it’s growing organically, so we have to deal with the growth. This is like a startup. We want to find a way of making it move forward, grow it, put more people together, and somehow handle it on the side.
We are engineers, and we like to do engineering as well, so if we make this our centerpiece of our careers, then I think we will miss this technical side.
Yeah, and this is a non-profit organization, and I think that all of us who are involved in it really like this spirit, of volunteering, and doing this because it makes us feel good, and we believe that we are doing something good for the future.
At this point obviously you’re growing fast, you have some great sponsors it sounds like, along the way, that are helping you… What needs do you still have? If there’s somebody out there, either as an individual or as a company, that’s listening and they said “I’d like to help them”, what kind of things are still in need, if anything?
Well, we need more hands to the activities of sustaining the organization. Admin stuff, recruiting girls, PR activities, organization of the staff - there is an event, we have to organize all the mentors, we have to synchronize with our partners to organize the event… We also need to work on our content, and developing teaching content… So we have a lot of things that people can help if someone is motivated.
Going forward, what countries do you expect to be operating in? That’s a quick question, and then I’ll have a follow-up for you after that.
For the moment, Switzerland is a tiny country, but it’s a challenging one. Our first goal is going to the German part of Switzerland. We did one workshop in Bern, but now we want to do more there… And it’s a big challenge, because it’s a completely different language… Because it’s German, not French. So this is our goal for this year, I will.
Now and then we have propositions of doing workshops in Spain, in Italy, in Croatia, but now the priority and the easiest thing for us, because of location, is doing it in the German part of Switzerland, and probably in other countries in Europe.
What happens is that most of our mentors are Ph.D. students or colleagues from computer science; once they’ve finished their studies here in Switzerland, they go back home, or they go somewhere else, and then they tell us “Oh, but now I want to organize this workshop on my own, and you have all the content, and you have all the experience, and I participated at your workshops, so I believe that I’m now capable of doing something on my own, but maybe I’ll still need a bit of support. Can we do it together?” and we say “Yes, of course.”
So now we have friends in France, and Italy, and back in Croatia… They are writing to me, they say “This is amazing. I want to do it, but I need a bit of push, can you help?” and I say “Of course.” That’s amazing. That’s beyond what we expected when we just started.
[00:32:11.17] You segued right into what my next question was gonna be, and that is - as people out there, maybe beyond your own organization working in Switzerland, but out there in the world - because we have people all over the world that are gonna be listening to this - and they want to do something similar, do you have any recommendations on how they can get started and make that impact? Maybe some lessons learned from your own struggle to do that?
Well, I will give the same advice for every startup, the general advice - start small. Start doing something simple, as we did. We went to a place where we knew everyone there; we knew people teachers, we knew people that can give us the space where to do the workshop… We just did it with ten girls, it was just a three-hour workshop, the contents were quite simple; we just wanted to introduce them a bit to coding, not to teach them to do an amazing algorithm. That is already quite a lot of work and a lot of things to learn, because we are engineers, we are not used to dealing with kids. So just to do the first interaction with the kids - it’s quite an experience. Try to do something simple and interact with the kids in a very simple way. That would be our advice.
The motto that I had in my mind when we started was if we change the mind of at least one girl to start in computer science, then we have already achieved a lot.
Finish up here, I guess I’m gonna ask – there’s a lot of parents out there, that are mothers and fathers of daughters that are out there… Do you have any advice for them on how they can help their daughters get into computer science - and machine learning specifically, if they have an interest in that? If they don’t necessarily have a GirlsCoding.org near them, that they can take advantage of the workshops, what would you recommend for those parents to give it a shot, to help their daughters go down this path?
Well, it’s not just about computer science, it’s really the way of thinking, and I think that all the parents should encourage all of their kids equally just to be open-minded, and to be brave. I believe that, on average, girls are less brave than boys to try out new things, and also maybe they are more often told what to do, and to follow the rules, and to obey, and to be nice and polite, but I think they should just raise them equal and really encourage them to be brave, and to go out there, and even if they are the only girl in the class, not to be scared and just to do what interests them, and to follow their dream.
I think we can use Miranda’s personal story to illustrate this, and what your parents did with you. Maybe you can tell the story yourself?
Well, I started coding very early, when I was about nine years old, because both of my parents are engineers, and I have an older brother who also studied computer science, and math. So I followed them, and they were teaching me, and I really enjoyed it and I liked it, up to the age of 12-13, when I went to my high school. There it was a mathematical high school and I was the only girl in the class, going to coding lessons. At that point I was insecure, and I was telling myself, “Oh, but maybe this is really not for me”, just because I was the only girl. And I was good in it, but I thought, “No, there must be a reason I’m the only girl. Maybe it’s really not for me”, and I almost dropped. But luckily, for the fact that my parents were engineers, they were telling me what I just said, “No, you like it, and you’re good. Just stick to it, and study later what you want to.” So I went to computer science university, and I enjoyed it, and [unintelligible 00:36:03.24] and now I’m doing my Ph.D. But if at that moment I didn’t have parents who told me that, I would drop out, and who knows what I would study.
[00:36:15.06] Yeah, in my case I don’t have such a great story with computer science. My parents are not engineers, but my dad is a truck driver; and when I was little, I also wanted to be a truck driver, of course, like he was. [laughs] I really knew everything about the truck, I loved to go with him; I was doing everything, and yet people were telling me “But you cannot be a truck driver, you are a girl.” And I was just crying; I didn’t understand anything… “Why can’t I do this?” But my dad was there, saying “Don’t worry, if there are no truck driver girls, you will be the first one. Don’t be afraid! You will be the first one.”
I think this also helped me a lot into going into a very male-dominated field. I was not scared at all going there, thanks also to the support of my parents as well when I was a kid.
So I really believe this kind of support that we had, and many of our female colleagues had, is super-critical.
Those are both actually great personal stories… Even the truck driving story is fantastic, because whether it be computer science and machine learning or whether it be truck driving, you’re still talking about sexism that is inherent in the way we think about these fields, and the fact that both of you were lucky enough to have parents that encouraged you past that point where so many other young ladies might give up because they don’t have the benefit of parents saying “No, no, you can do this. This is amazing.”
So it’s really great, from my perspective, to hear two stories of success, and getting past those obstacles there. Very inspirational, from my perspective.
I guess as we finish up here, as people out there wanna reach out to you and make contact, how would you like people to do that? Could you let us know how listeners can reach out to you?
Yeah, I think the best thing would be if they send us an e-mail. Our e-mails are firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com.
And just to make sure spelling is good, we will include those in the show notes, so that people can make sure they get the spelling right. I hope people will go to GirlsCoding.org and take a look at the website/program.
Thank you so much for coming onto the show and sharing your experience and sharing this fantastic program that you guys have put together and been so successful with, and affecting the lives of so many young ladies. I know this will probably be one of the first or maybe only shows that my six-year-old daughter will ever want to listen to over the next couple of years. I think when she’s older, she might go “Wow…!”, because we’re really working on these things… But normally, she’s like “Dad, you’re talking about boring stuff”, and I keep saying “No, this is great! This is girls stuff, too!” So I’m gonna try to inspire her by letting her listen to this episode with you guys first, and see if we can extend beyond just doing Scratch right now, and keep it going. She can do whatever she wants for her career, but I want her as a father to have every opportunity to do whatever she wants, without the kind of sexist filter that we tend to put on in society.
Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Thank you, and good luck with your daughter.
Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚