We signed our girls up for coding camp this summer, much to their distress.
“I don’t want to be a computer programmer when I grow up!” one said.
“Can’t we do another week of basketball camp instead?” the other begged. “Please!”
Well, no. You can’t. Because these days, knowing how to program a computer or write an app is a lot like math — a baseline skill everyone needs.
And women, especially, are all too often the ones without that skill. Last month, Google released numbers showing that women make up just 17% of its tech staff. And Google’s a company that’s working to change those numbers and is honest about its staffing, unlike a lot of others in Silicon Valley.
Our girls, 11 and 13, need to know how to code just as they need to know how to add and subtract, all the way on up to calculus.
Like math, coding is one of those things that makes a whole host of other things possible.
They may never sell an app or work on a team at Google or spend a summer at Microsoft (though internship offers are welcome!).
But without the basics, they’re always going to be on the outside looking in, at the mercy of those for whom coding isn’t a magical process that somehow makes the Angry Birds fly through the sky.
Too often, I sit in meetings or conferences and see something that involves programming come up, and half the people in the room just go blank. It’s as if the discussion has moved into Swahili, behind an impenetrable barrier.
What’s happening behind that barrier is increasingly the real stuff of civilization. It’s what makes our phones work, keeps our schedules, amuses us while waiting in line and even runs the heart monitor on a sick friend.
Here’s to a coming generation of kids for whom writing an app will be child’s play.