Vodacom kicks off 2019 Code Like A Girl project

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Only 35% of STEM field students in higher education globally are women.
Only 35% of STEM field students in higher education globally are women.

Vodacom will teach coding skills to 500 school-going female learners from across eight provinces in SA, as part of its Code Like A Girl project.

Created in 2017, the Vodacom Code Like A Girl project is aimed at girls aged between 14 and 18 and hopes to encourage them to develop an interest in ICT careers through learning how to code.

The programme will take place during the winter school holidays, from 24 June to 05 July.

Vodacom says its investment in digital skills training programmes for young women is aimed at helping to develop their computational and critical thinking skills and showing them how to create, not simply use, new technologies.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, female participation is falling in a field that is expanding globally, with only 35% of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students in higher education globally being women.

“In recent years, there has been significant progress in closing the global gender gap in various aspects of society. However, in many countries, including SA, the gap is widening in STEM careers. The Code Like A Girl programme is designed to give girls an interest in a sector currently more popular with boys, helping widen their opportunities and increase their future career choices,” says Takalani Netshitenzhe, chief officer of corporate affairs at Vodacom.

“For Vodacom, teaching girls how to code is the first step towards changing their outlook towards careers in STEM fields.”

Gender disparity in STEM

A few years ago, the Engineering Council of SA put the total number of women engineers registered with the body at 11%. In the US, women make up around a quarter of those in STEM occupations, notes Vodacom. STEM fields also have fewer women on company boards than any other sectors.

“This gender disparity is alarming, especially as STEM careers are often referred to as the jobs of the future, driving innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth and sustainable development. Coding is a way of solving problems, boosting sequential thinking, as well as creating and designing, notes Vodacom.

The Code Like A Girl programme is implemented in SA, Mozambique, Tanzania, DRC and Lesotho, with over 755 young girls being trained in 2019.

During the week-long training course, learners will be exposed to basic knowledge of computing and software development programmes, including HTML, CSS, open source and GitHub, Bootstrap, JavaScript and more.

At the end of the week, each girl will know how to develop her own Web site and present her work to the rest of the coding class.

“SA, along with the rest of the world, is standing on the cusp of a digital revolution that will reshape the way we work, the way we live and the way we relate to each other. It’s becoming clear that this revolution will have a tremendous impact on many academic disciplines,” says Matimba Mbungela, chief officer: Human Resources for Vodacom Group.

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