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As the tech sector continues to grow, the number of women in STEM-related fields continues to decrease. According to Girls Who Code, 37% of computer scientists in the ’90s were women, but today, women only make up 24% of all computer scientists.
Research shows that this disparity starts when girls are still in school. Due to a variety of reasons — including lack of exposure, lack of interest, etc.—fewer girls study computer science while still in junior and senior high. As a result, fewer girls choose to study computer science at the university level, and from there, even fewer secure careers in the field.
The female founders behind Erase All Kittens (EAK) understand the importance of exposing girls to coding when young, which is why they’ve created a “Mario-style” web-based game with the aim of teaching girls how to code.
As first reported by TechCrunch, EAK has reached 160,000 players in over 100 countries. And now, EAK has raised $1 million in seed funding to take the game to new heights.
EAK told TechCrunch that 55% of the game’s players are girls, 95% of whom want to learn more about coding after playing the game. This is largely because EAK is designed differently than the educational tools that most young girls and boys are used to.
The founders of EAK explained to TechCrunch that because most coding education tools for children are designed by men, those tools appeal more to young boys. According to EAK, these male-designed tools tend to teach “repetitive coding, in a very rigid, instructional way.” As a result, most young girls display a general lack of interest in coding, which leads to the disparity seen in STEM-related careers.
But those behind EAK believe they’ve found the solution.
In a blog post, EAK described it this way: “To better diversify coding for girls and beyond, coding needs to be perceived as less of a ‘maths-like subject, and more as a language that develops other practical skills, like problem-solving and creativity. Coding is a fun challenge that breaks larger problems into small manageable tasks, relying on logic, imagination and communication to come up with innovative solutions.”
Research conducted by Girls Who Code and Accenture supports this claim that simple exposure to coding isn’t enough to fix the current gender disparity. Campaigns, educational tools, etc. must appeal to girls, or else the disparity could only worsen.
Thankfully, with two women at the helm, EAK was designed with girls in mind.
In her interview with TechCrunch, Dee Saigal, Co-Founder, CEO and Creative Director of Erase All Kittens shared: “We’re designing a coding game that girls genuinely love — one that places a huge emphasis on creativity. Girls can see instant results as they code, there are different ways to progress through the game and learning is seamlessly blended with storytelling.”
Reports TechCrunch: “The new game will be sold to schools and parents, globally. EAK will also be carrying out a one-for-one scheme, where for every school account purchased, one will be donated to underserved schools via partnerships with tech companies, educational organizations and NGOs.”
To not only diversify the industry but also address the shortage of skilled tech workers entering the workforce, changes must be made at the bottom of the pipeline. By focusing on not only exposing young girls to coding programs but capturing and retaining their interest, the tech industry will very likely see an increase in skilled applicants and cutting-edge ideas.