Meet the Teen Stars Behind Girls Who Code 
Categories: Tech

Meet the Teen Stars Behind Girls Who Code 

Girls Who Code is an organization that, well, teaches girls to code, with a goal of gender parity in the tech industry. And the organization just launched something really cool: a web-series, hosted by four teen girlbosses, about what it means to be a girl who codes. It’s a mix of calling out discrimination and some super practical advice to anyone who wants to be a girl who codes… and it’s all amazing. We caught up with Shannon Yan, Brittney Hill, Audrey Thompson and Margot Richaud — AKA the Girls Who Code — to ask them about why they love coding and why we need more women in tech. Prepare to be inspired.

Meet Shannon Yan

B+C: Tell us about yourself and why you love coding!

SY: I’m Shannon. I’m sixteen and from Oakland, California. In my free time, I’m a cheerleader, I’m involved with Boy Scouts and I also love photography. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been obsessed with Disney animated movies such as Bambi and Cinderella. I used to watch them on repeat over and over again on my old VHS player.

Since then, technology has evolved and we now have the ability to create films using computer animation, which is more efficient and creates even more realistic images. I’m really interested in using computer science to create computer animated movies and short films of my own. One day, I’d love to be a technical director on a Pixar film.

B+C: Why is it important to have more women and girls’ perspectives in the tech world?

SY: Girls are important in technology because we make up half the population! With our input, companies can create products that fully serve the whole community. That not only means a larger market and profit for companies, but also better products.

For example, years ago, voice recognition software often had trouble understanding women’s voices because the engineers who created it were only men, therefore their product was seriously lacking. If we only take advantage of 50 percent of the great ideas in the world, our society will never reach its full potential! Girls have an infinite amount of creative and ingenious ideas. We just need the tools and audience to make them a reality.

B+C: What would your advice be for girls who want to get into coding, but are intimidated by the male-dominated industry?

SY: Computer science is not as intimidating as people pretend it is. I’ve met so many amazing mentors and friends through computer science that I like to think of coding as a sisterhood. We are all one community that supports one another and helps each other up. Even if we encounter problems, it’s comforting knowing that I have an amazing group of women who I can depend on and have my back.

Meet Brittney Hill

B+C: Tell us about yourself and why you love coding!

BH: All my life, I’ve loved making videos. Growing up, I’ve always made sure I had a camera to film with, and over the years, I progressed from silly music videos with my friends to making short films and placing in video competitions. Film has always been a passion of mine. Coding, on the other hand, is fairly new to me. However, I really enjoy all the things I use that are created with code. Like my phone, laptop, car, air conditioning. I also really enjoy creating mini games because I get to play them after and send them to my friends.

B+C: Why is it important to have more women and girls’ perspectives in the tech world?

BH: It’s no secret that girls tend to think with a different mindset than boys when it comes to a lot of things. We make up almost half of the world population, so if our ideas and concerns are not accounted for, then companies are creating products that aren’t equipped to handle a vast group of the people using it.

I think girls bring a lot of ideas that account for women, like making sure programs are accessible for pregnant women, or women in menstruation or women with long hair (these are the types of things that would not be as common for men to consider). It’s necessary for women’s perspectives to be considered so that companies don’t put a lot of time and effort into a program that isn’t going to work for everyone who uses it.

B+C: What would your advice be to girls who want to get into coding but are intimidated by the male-dominated industry?

BH: I think it’s important to get over the [fear of] intimidation as soon as possible, because throughout your life, there are going to be so many situations where you might feel like you aren’t good enough for a job or won’t be able to handle the workload. You can’t be 100 percent certain unless you try to create a program yourself. Don’t be afraid of failure, because the best thing about failure is that if you get through it, it will make you stronger.

Coming from a year ago — not even knowing what coding was — let me just say that it will change the way you look at the technical world we live in. Coding will make you think of solutions for things you never considered problems until you considered them from a technical perspective. I am constantly doing things in my daily life that I feel could be done so much more simply and efficiently if they were coded with different features or through different programs.

Meet Audrey Thompson

B+C: Introduce yourself! Tell us who you are and why you love coding.

AT: I’m Audrey. My main interest in the tech world definitely has to be gaming and video game design. I’ve also more recently started getting into robotics and basic circuitry. I like to make all sorts of things with coding, but my favorite things to code are websites and games. I’ve started learning how to use a program called GameMaker so that I can really begin to make fun, interesting games.

B+C: Why is it important to have more women and girls’ perspectives in the tech world?

AT: Girls bring an entirely different perspective to the table in coding. Having diversity among coders is super important because then they can create software and tech that is suited for any kind of person. After all, there are millions of people that use technology every day.

If girls aren’t properly being catered to and recognized in the same way that guys are, that’s leaving out literally half of the population. In a lot of video games, for instance, it’s pretty common to see scantily-clad female characters, while most of the male characters are geared out in full battle armor. Some games definitely need more girl-oriented fan service to go alongside the female eye candy that’s directed chiefly at male players.

B+C: What would your advice be to girls who want to get into coding but are intimidated by the male-dominated industry?

AT: To any girls who are intimidated by the idea of coding or the tech industry, just give it a try! I promise coding isn’t anywhere near as hard as it seems. You can start out small — internet tutorials on websites like Codecademy.com are fantastic — and work your way up from there. If you like the intro-level coding stuff, keep at it and you’ll surprise yourself with how quickly you can get good at it and start building amazing things.

Plus, literally no one is going to make fun of you for not being a coding expert. If you post a coding question somewhere, you will get nothing but support and advice from the computer science community. Even if the tech community seems clique-y and closed off from the outside, most people love to share their coding knowledge and are dying to have someone to discuss their latest project with. Don’t worry about the judgment of others. If you love coding and think that it’s your thing, go for it! Don’t let the views or ideas of anybody stop you.

Meet Margot Richaud

B+C: Introduce yourself! Tell us who you are and why you love coding.

MR: My name is Margot Richaud and I am currently a high school senior at The Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria. Before I even knew that code existed, my mind would spend hours wondering how technology worked and all the amazing things I really wanted to create. I use to think, “Wow, I wish there was this type of video game,” and once I learned how to code, I now think, “I can create that!” It is even more amazing when you can make change with anything you create with code.

I usually help code video games with other girls to target issues within our communities to raise awareness through an interactive way… That is what interests me the most in the tech world, being able to express your ideas or passions through an app, video game, website or even through a robot! There are no limits to what I can create with code, and I love that. I love being a girl who codes because it changed my life and helps me make a change in the world.

B+C: Why is it important to have more women and girls’ perspectives in the tech world?

MR: I believe girls who know how to code bring in more power, ideas and passion. Every boy and girl is raised differently and grow up to have different interests. Just like most people say, “everyone is unique in their own way.” Some of us have different ways of learning, studying, interacting and exploring. However, if we combine all people of any gender, especially women, we will advance at a much efficient and faster way. That is why I believe girls can bring more to the table in coding. For a long time, girls have been pushed away from doing “male” stuff like building, engineering, coding and exploring. But girls have grown and become more empowered and motivated to do that “male” stuff. Girls who code are going to make up for the years of a lack of women in STEM.

B+C: What would your advice be to girls who want to get into coding but are intimidated by the male-dominated industry?

MR: If you ever feel intimidated by the male-dominated industry, just remember that you can only limit yourself… I can either be the girl who codes and creates amazing things, or I can let go of my passion just because of boys. No one should ever limit themselves because they are afraid of the opposite gender. The boys in my future computer science classes are there to learn too. Some may know more than me, but there will be some that probably don’t know as much as me. Either way, we will ALL be learning the same thing together; it is only up to every individual to make the effort in learning. Worry about yourself and your code, not about the boys!

Are YOU a girl who codes? Tweet us why you love coding @BritandCo!

(Photos via Girls Who Code)