“Coding is a new literacy,” says YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki. “It gives people the potential to create, innovate and quite literally change the world.”

 

This is bad news for your correspondent, whose only experience with coding came in the form of an aborted attempt at self-improvement a few years back involving a shockingly expensive Java How-To manual, some stiff drinks and a chilling near-miss with an inadvertent hard drive wipe. A future coding scintillating new programs in the sun-dappled confines of the Googleplex does not seem to be in the cards.

 

Then again, your correspondent is white, male and totally not the sort of person Google is interested in. Young girls are tech’s next big target, and Google’s new “Made With Code” initiative is betting $50 million that a new generation of enterprising female techies will transform the industry and the future.

 

The American Association of University Women recently found that less than one percent of female U.S. high school students see coding as an integral part of their future prospects. Women account for only 30 percent of computer scientists in the States, and tech companies are overwhelmingly freighted with male employees. Despite the high profiles enjoyed by such wunderkinds as Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, tech is still very much a man’s world.

 

The reasons for this are varied. The tech industry is a weird combination of lingering insecurity and unconsciously ironic exclusivity, the bullied nerds from high school transformed into “brogrammers” with a lot of money and rather less empathy for outsiders. Women programmers struggle against many of the same professional roadblocks present in other professions, but the tech industry seems to nurture a nastier level of male-centric prejudices made all the more alarming by the industry’s self-styled reputation as a bastion of progressiveness. Skeptical? Check this disheartening expose.

 

Google aims to change all that. “Made With Code” gets girls involved through glamour and games, launching a site that combines simple and intriguing coding projects with sleek profiles of inspirational female coders and a ready-made community for girls to connect and share their excitement. “Made With Code” is partnering with a wide variety of organizations to advance the cause, including the Clinton Foundation, MIT National Media Lab and the Girl Scouts. The hope is that “Made With Code” and similar efforts will capture the hearts and minds of a new generation of future programmers, linking them to resources and inspiring them with tales of success stories and bright visions of a future coded by girls just like them.

 

It is a laudable effort. The world needs more female programmers, just as the world needs more female lawyers, doctors, (insert any profession). “Made With Code” is a heartening first step towards transforming the tech industry and generating a larger cultural shift. Your correspondent wishes it every success. Now, if you’ll excuse him, Code.org is calling. Getting an angry bird to hop around in search of a green pig should pose no threat to his hard drive.

 

Are you intrigued by Google’s new effort? Any interest in learning to code yourself? Start talking in the comments below or find me on Twitter @aa_murph