This week, Google launched a new initiative called Made With Code, aimed at getting young women excited about learning to code and close the gender gap in the tech industry. The idea behind it is to show young girls that the things they love, from apps on their smartphones to their favorite movies are made with code, and they can apply the skills they learn to their own individual passions.Google is investing $50 million into the program over the next three years, and Made With Code has a host of partners to help foster the community including Chelsea Clinton, Mindy Kaling, MIT Media Lab, Girl Scouts of the USA, Girls Inc., Girls Who Code, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, and TechCrunch as a media partner.The Made With Code website will offer resources and projects for kids to learn how to code, communities to discuss different lessons and projects with each other and mentors, as well as information about regional events. This is all in an effort to get women in the driver seat when it comes to the technology of the future.Looking at the numbers, women have actually lost ground when it comes to getting Computer Science degrees in the U.S.Google X EVP Megan Smith explained that there are a number of factors that can turn this around, all of which are well within our grasp. The first is to encourage young girls to try coding, even if the person doing the encouraging isn’t technical. “You don’t have to know how to code to encourage someone else to code.”Smith also identified that for some girls, there isn’t a clear avenue to try coding, and that there are no heroes for girls to look up to. Even in television shows, men are represented as the computer scientists far more than women.Made With Code looks to solve these problems, as well as encourage others to take steps to encourage young girls to try coding, and give them people to aspire to be like. We checked out the launch event and spoke with the people involved, which you can see in the video here
In the winter of 2011, a handful of software engineers landed in Boston just ahead of a crippling snowstorm. They were there as part of Code for America, a program that places idealistic young coders and designers in city halls across the country for a year. They’d planned to spend it building a new website for Boston’s public schools, but within days of their arrival, the city all but shut down and the coders were stuck fielding calls in the city’s snow emergency center.In such snowstorms, firefighters can waste precious minutes finding and digging out hydrants. A city employee told the CFA team that the planning department had a list of street addresses for Boston’s 13,000 hydrants. “We figured, ‘Surely someone on the block with a shovel would volunteer if they knew where to look,'” says Erik Michaels-Ober, one of the CFA coders. So they got out their laptops.Screenshot from Adopt-a-Hydrant Code for AmericaNow, Boston has adoptahydrant.org, a simple website that lets residents “adopt” hydrants across the city. The site displays a map of little hydrant icons. Green ones have been claimed by someone willing to dig them out after a storm, red ones are still available—500 hydrants were adopted last winter.Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot, but consider what the city pays to keep it running: $9 a month in hosting costs. “I figured that even if it only led to a few fire hydrants being shoveled out, that could be the difference between life or death in a fire, so it was worth doing,” Michaels-Ober says. And because the CFA team open-sourced the code, meaning they made it freely available for anyone to copy and modify, other cities can adapt it for practically pennies. It has been deployed in Providence, Anchorage, and Chicago. A Honolulu city employee heard about Adopt-a-Hydrant after cutbacks slashed his budget, and now Honolulu has Adopt-a-Siren, where volunteers can sign up to check for dead batteries in tsunami sirens across the city.
“We teach our kids how to be consumers of technology, not creators of technology.”