5 Ways to Get Girls Thinking Like a Programmer

Over the past years of technological advancements, it’s no secret that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is the way of the future! The following generations will see careers such as aerospace engineers, biologists, meteorologists, and cryptographers becoming more and more commonplace – and we’ve got Girl Scouts to fill them!

CalState15_09922According to the Girl Scout Research Institute’s Generation STEM report, 74% of high school girls across the country are interested in the fields and subjects of STEM. They thrive in the process of learning, asking questions, and problem-solving, and show a strong drive in wanting to help people and make a difference in the world. However, perceived gender barriers are still high for girls and may help explain why STEM fields aren’t typically their top career choices. This causes women to continuously be underrepresented in these college majors and career fields.

Whether or not a girl is passionate about entering the fields of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and so on, the ability to think like a programmer is still valuable! Rather than focusing on the scientific application, it’s about finding creative and effective solutions to a problem while remaining open to all possibilities.

Here are a few of GSUSA’s favorite ways to your girls thinking like a programmer:

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  1. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone!

Understand that mistakes are bound to happen while trying something new and challenging, but take them in strides as a learning opportunity! Programmers are actually fueled by mistakes – their job is to come up with creative solutions by testing all possible outcomes! Try taking a curious approach. Putting yourself in the right frame of mind before tackling new and unsolved problems will lower the chance of frustration in the process.

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  1. Break it down into smaller problems

When tasked with a large, complex problem, it can be overwhelming figuring out where exactly to start. If the first few approaches don’t work, encourage girls to keep trying! Try simplifying the problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable sub-problems and tackle those first. This process can easily be applied to girl’s everyday lives, from school projects to earning their Gold Awards.

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  1. Ask for help when you need it

Don’t be afraid to call for backup! Programmers often work together to brainstorm solutions and come up with creative ideas. Group collaboration is a powerful tool to gain a new perspective, utilize talents, and play to each individual’s strengths! You never know what new things you might learn from cooperative learning.

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  1. Start with the basics

Coding is the way of the future, and girls will need to become familiar with the concept no matter their career path! Start with the basics such as a computer’s input, storage, processing, and output. Understanding more about computer science and coding will give your girl a competitive edge early on!

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  1. Inspire with strong female role models

Studies show that girls who know a woman in a STEM career are more likely to be interested in the field. A majority of girls who are not interested in STEM (79% vs. 60% of STEM girls) know more about other careers than they do about STEM. Team up with a local tech or STEM company and invite female members to your next troop meeting! Have them share different aspects of their job and how they make a difference in the world. Girls can also research groundbreaking women in STEM fields and share who inspires them.

Ready to start thinking like a programmer? Try out one of our Think Like a Programmer Journeys, where girls learn how programmers solve problems by participating in computational-thinking activities and completing a Take Action project. You can also try out one of our new STEM badges, focusing on cybersecurity, space science, citizen science, and computer science!