Lesley Chilcott, the award-winning documentary filmmaker of “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Waiting for Superman,” impresses us again with her riveting documentary film “CODEGIRL.” The film has not yet graced the theaters, but it is available for free online this week until Nov. 5, so jump on it.
This is a film that follows the story of around 5,000 high school-aged girls from 60 countries around the world as they compete in a global entrepreneurship and coding competition by Technovation.
During this time, the girls have three months to design and develop an app that attempts to solve a specific problem in their local community. To do it, they learn to code, write a business plan, interact with their teachers and mentors, analyze competition, and make a pitch video – all the while attending high school as usual. But only six teams will make it to the finals for pitch night in San Francisco in the hopes of winning the $10,000 cash prize.
“CODEGIRL” addresses the pressing issue that is the dearth of women in the tech world. In a time when women are earning the majority of bachelor’s degrees in this country, you might think that at least half of the U.S.’s tech and IT sector would be made up of women. Not so: somehow, women still earn fewer than 20 percent of computer science degrees. This not only has serious implications for the economy, but for women worldwide.
Why is it so hard to get young girls interested in tech? It turns out there’s quite a bit going into it.
According to research by Google, one the key factors they found is due to optics. Positive female role models simply aren’t visible to girls in popular culture. In a study of popular films in 11 different countries, there were fewer than 20 percent of computer science or tech roles held by women. In “CODEGIRL,” one of the mentors to team Tech Voca from Guadalajara, Mexico, mentions that a lot of teachers didn’t want to give this opportunity to the girls, because they feel technology is not for women. When they went to the schools, they wouldn’t even give them the opportunity to speak to the girls.
This is because there were, and still are, members of the community who feel that women should remain in typical gender based roles, such as within the home to cook, or to pursue careers such as fashion.
The apps these girls were creating were nothing short of incredible and inspiring. Team Tech Voca created an app called Violentometro to reduce violence in their community. It was a test to see how violent individuals are, and to also see to what degree of violence others are suffering from. This app was created with women ages 15-25 in mind, to reduce the level of violence they may be suffering from and perhaps inflicting on others. After taking the test, the app would show your score and the level that you’d be at, and if need be, show where some of the nearest shelters were in the area.
I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t give any more away. But I cannot recommend watching “CODEGIRL” highly enough. For more information on the film, feel free to check out girlcodemovie.com and madewithcode.com.
Oh – and don’t forget to #rallyforcodegirl!