Is There a Right and Wrong Way to Promote Diversity in Computer Science?

Diversity in computer science education and tech in general is a well-known problem; one that many people and organizations are trying to solve. It’s ironic that, in the same week, two extremely different tactics around this problem made news: One for successfully and creatively encouraging girls to code and the other for perpetuating stereotypes and telling girls that they cannot be an engineer without a boy’s help.

First the good. Last week, Code.org announced a new partnership with Disney’s “Frozen” team that allows them to use the movie’s licensed characters, Anna and Elsa, in their Hour of Code tutorials.1 This is an amazing way to encourage young women to pursue computer programming. Code.org takes something that many girls (and women!) are already interested in and shows them how to relate it to computer science. Code.org’s partnership with and embrace of Disney’s “Frozen” shows that women can be successful in tech and don’t have to compromise who they are to do so.

Via Frank, Blair Hanley. (19 November 2014). “Let it code! Disney’s ‘Frozen’ teams with Code.org to inspire young programmers.” GeekWire. Retrieved from http://www.geekwire.com/2014/let-code-disneys-frozen-teams-code-org-inspire-young-programmers/

Via Frank, Blair Hanley. (19 November 2014). “Let it code! Disney’s ‘Frozen’ teams with Code.org to inspire young programmers.” GeekWire. Retrieved from http://www.geekwire.com/2014/let-code-disneys-frozen-teams-code-org-inspire-young-programmers/

Second, in the same week, news came out about Random House’s book “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer” in which, contrary to the title, Barbie is not, and apparently cannot be, a computer engineer. As one reviewer described the story:2

[quote author=” .”]Basically what happens is she designs a game (but can’t code it without her guy friends’ help), infects her own and her sister’s computers with a virus by accident (lolol), has her guy friends help her fix both of them, and then takes all the credit for the game and fixed computers in the end.[/quote]

via omano, Aia.(17 November 2014). “Barbie book about programming tells girls they need boys to code for them.” Daily Dot. Retrieved from http://www.dailydot.com/geek/barbie-engineer-book-girls-game-developers/

via omano, Aia.(17 November 2014). “Barbie book about programming tells girls they need boys to code for them.” Daily Dot. Retrieved from http://www.dailydot.com/geek/barbie-engineer-book-girls-game-developers/

With stories like this, it can be hard to remember the good, the progress we’ve made in increasing diversity in tech. So we want to say congratulations to Code.org and other organizations such as Lesbians Who Tech, Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and many, many more on their continued work to promote diversity in tech and increase access to computer science education for all  Keep up the great work!

Resources

1 Frank, Blair Hanley. (19 November 2014). “Let it code! Disney’s ‘Frozen’ teams with Code.org to inspire young programmers.” GeekWire. Retrieved from http://www.geekwire.com/2014/let-code-disneys-frozen-teams-code-org-inspire-young-programmers/
2 Quoted in Romano, Aia.(17 November 2014). “Barbie book about programming tells girls they need boys to code for them.” Daily Dot. Retrieved from http://www.dailydot.com/geek/barbie-engineer-book-girls-game-developers/

Featured image via Frank.

UPDATE

Mattel has since removed the “Barbie: I Can Be A Computer Engineer” book from Amazon and apologized on their Facebook page. Read more here: http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/19/mattel-pulls-sexist-barbie-book-i-can-be-a-computer-engineer-off-amazon/
http://www.geekwire.com/2014/mattel-apologizes-horrific-barbie-book-can-computer-engineer-implies-girls-cant-code/

 

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