Why do so many girls quit programming after their first class? Let me share my story with you, which may help illuminate the issue (if only a little).

There’s many reasons why girls quit after their first programming class. Coding tests your self-worth, your skills, and your intelligence. It can be frustrating—a mere semi-colon out of place in an otherwise perfect program is the difference between a program that runs and one that doesn’t.

In my Intro to Programming in high school, I constantly struggled to make my code work. I felt like a failure; I didn’t think I had the ability to do it. Everyone around me seemed to be getting it, I thought there was something wrong with me–my brain. So, I stopped.

I tell you this story, because it’s not just mine. It’s a story shared by girls across the United States, and I don’t want this story to also become your daughter’s story.

Years later, I learned there was nothing wrong with me, other than I lacked the understanding that everyone struggles with coding. No one gets it right the first time.

The Difference Between Boys & Girls

Girls approach math and coding differently than boys, and by knowing this I hope my failure will become your girl’s success story.

Study, after study has shown that when it comes to coding and math, girls and boys who love these fields of study lose confidence at a similar rate. When it comes to learning math, researchers noticed an interesting phenomena that began at the start of Calculus I. While both genders seem to feel the struggle at the same point in time, they saw a significantly higher drop-off rate in girls than in boys. Why?

“When women are leaving, it is because they don’t think they can do it – not because they can’t do it,” said study co-author Bailey Fosdick in a press release.

“Our findings indicate that if women persisted in STEM at the same rate as men starting in Calculus I, the number of women entering the STEM workforce would increase by 75 percent,” the study reads.

Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, has seen this issue before. She says it’s because girls are socialized to be perfect, not brave.

When your girl enters her first programming class, let her know imperfection is part of the process, there’s nothing wrong with her, no one is getting it right the first time. Show her the Ted Talk above and share this article with other parents, so they know her daughter isn’t alone.

We’re working on showcasing important conversations that affect young girls and parents. If you or your daughter have an idea that you’d like discussed, feel free to submit it to Natalie Shoemaker (me) via email nshoemaker@gsnypenn.org

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