Women have an uphill struggle when it comes to coding. It has nothing to do with their actual ability to code, but rather with all the stereotypes about female coders. See, for example, Barbie’s latest misadventure: “I Can Be A Computer Engineer,” published by Random House.

Barbie is featured in the book as a “computer engineer” who breaks every computer she touches and doesn’t know how to code. She creates the design ideas for her cute robot puppy game, but needs “Steven’s and Brian’s help to turn it into a real game!”

Europe’s ICT sector represents over 12 million jobs, yet women account for less than 20% of employees in ICT-based careers. The situation is getting worse; in 1998, 25% of computer graduates in the EU were women, but by 2006 that number had fallen to only 22%. This compares with 38% in South Korea and 28% in the United States – both countries renowned for their high-tech sectors.

We’ve put together some facts and figures about women and coding in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

As part of our Debating Europe Schools project, we had a question sent in by Vasilis, a student from Greece. He asked how we can subvert stereotypes and encourage more female students in Europe to study coding. We put this question to Mercedes Diaz, an ICT consultant and EU Code Ambassador for Belgium:

We also put the same question to Steve Clement, a professional hacker and EU CodeWeek Ambassador for Luxembourg, to see how he would respond:

Finally, we asked for a response from Yasemin Allsop, Senior Lecturer in Primary Computing and ICT at Manchester Metropolitan University, and EU Code Ambassador for the United Kingdom. What would she say?

allsopI think the best way of involving girls in coding is by having coding as part of the school curriculum. That will give them the opportunity to try it out and see how it works, and decide if they want to take it further. If we only leave it as an extra-curricula activity at computing clubs, then girls may not come at all, but if it is in the curriculum then at least they will have an opportunity to try it out, and I think that is the best way.

Then, of course, involving all those wonderful women who are involved in technology and coding activities would be very useful as well. We’ve got amazing women working as game developers, software engineers, etc. We need to highlight them more, so girls can see this is not just for boys – it’s for anyone!

How can we get more girls to code in Europe? What’s the best way to subvert the stereotype that only men can code? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – ITU Pictures

20 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Eu CuMine

    Why do that? Why force something? Does not everyone has the right to choose what they want to do when they’ll grow up? Or we must plann every aspect of our live?

  2. avatar
    Tiago Miranda

    I come to think that we are, somewhat, crossing the line between giving more freedom of choice and equality to women to actually force them to have equality on all sorts of things. If there isn’t equality, make it equal in a passive way, not invasive! If there are restriction, remove them! It is up to women to decide if they are interested or not in taking the places and opportunities that are opened after decades of male dominance. We shouldn’t rush the results and get women to have as much jobs of the same kind as men. They have the autonomy to take over in a natural way and I’m sure there will be plenty of women coding, participating in politics, governing over multinationals and other stuff. As long as both men and women behave the way they should.

  3. avatar
    catherine benning

    Why? What is with you nut cases and women? The ‘masculinisation’ of women must end. Women have better, far more important things to give than playing the ‘walk like a man’ game. Leave us in peace. You have an obsession with turning the population of the planet into mindless soulless androgynous masses.

    You want men to go against their natural instincts and women to cry in continual pain from the constant voice of they are not good enough in their natural state. What comes to them as instinct is not worth their bread. You are trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. And it doesn’t work.


    • avatar

      @Catherine Benning

      “You are trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. And it doesn’t work”

      Oh yeah it does, with the right amount of determination and muscles :)

  4. avatar
    Jaume Roqueta

    O dont undersand your obsession for programing and coding… what about mathematics and physics?… why you only concerned in coding? conding what? app’s… yes.. you are only interested in apps, smart cities, fashion wear etc… the problem is not coding.. but science in general.

    • avatar
      Paul X

      I fully agree, DE seems to have an obsession with coding as if it is a job above all else

      Many disciplines of engineering (Electronic, mechanical and electrical) do coding as part of their everyday job, as do, I suspect, professionals in many other jobs. They are the productive face of coding and to me rate much higher than “professional coders” who spend all day creating computer games

    • avatar

      That’s how it is.Every mechanical engineer uses it every day.To program machines or robots.Basically all this repeating movements of robots that you see in production lines (cars) are simple programs created by mech engineers.

  5. avatar

    Make a pink scripting language :) Now on a serious note, since when programming become such a EU priority ? Just two days ago the newly elected romanian president Klaus Johannis was making coding a “national priority” for romanians. Is something “in the owen” at Bruxelles and we are missing the point here ? US of A is centuries ahead already, why reinventing the wheal ? Is that bad ?

    • avatar

      On the other hand.Our own market is actually 500million ,big enough to produce only for EU-intern selling.Most US-companies are selling most of the staff in the domestic market.I don’t see why there should not be more games like FarCry, Crisis,Gothic and so on.
      Most of them were mainly sold inside Europe, but there’s still nothing bad about it. While Industry is already at the peak in Germany there’s still lot’s of growing potential in IT.

  6. avatar

    Cause it simply sucks…I’ve done everything from Visual basic and C to CNC programming of machines to VAL-programing of robots.All of those are borring as hell^^

  7. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    DE/EC: What would be the reasons? What are the benefits? Who would benefit? Are that girls wishes in the new designed EU- or part of a command economy?

    A strange political desire- is the EU:

    * Designing & preparing for a future European indigenous childless society & more
    * Promoting a quasi motherless childhood, deprived of parents & condemned to
    survive on Junk food from industry?
    * Enticing innocent girl children to trade in their biological clock against an
    uncertain economy, job in-security & the purpose of life (for many)?
    * Further estrangement of unemployed men- while we already know that: “Men are
    from Mars and Woman are from Venus”?

    • avatar
      catherine benning


      You have summed this scenario up perfectly.

      The march of the corporate front wants to eliminate the European from the face of the earth. And the reason is simple, we have traditions that do not comply with corporate slavery. By eliminating us from our continent, they will then have an immigrant slave driven work force of moronic subclasses, raised in indifferent mass nursery units who grow into a culture of unconnected unsupported human beings with no sense of community. After all it is better than where they came from. Which in turn forms easy to subjugate robots who will finally work for a bowl of rice a day, as they do in the homeland they fled.

      And worse, they have convinced women this is in their best interests so that they can fight off the horror of men taking responsibility for the financial support of them and their offspring. The sharing of child rearing by the male bread winner with the female nurturer has been usurped by convincing women they had a bad deal in this loathsome twosome and that following the male into the corporate workforce, by abandoning their children to the ‘cared’ for regime, was the freedom they must seek. One day these women wake up and find that cleaning another’s house, frying Burger King patties, wiping shit off the non relative elderly or stacking shelves in the supermarket, was not the high flying well paid freedom they were looking for. Especially when they find the pay packet doesn’t pay the rent let alone feed them. That in fact, all they got from this new found freedom was being forced out of their own home, in order to perform those ghastly chores elsewhere and for those they don’t have any connection to or love at all, rather than doing this sacrifice for those they did. Now they are simply fodder for a distant rich user rather than the nurturer of their own family unit.

      How stupid have we all become, both men and women, to be taken in like this? And look how those exploiting our stupidity laugh all the way to the bank.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      @Catherine- Hi there,

      The lack of interest surrounding the more serious consequences of this forum question is quite disappointing! If interested here is a reference (of several) to some interesting articles by senior research fellow Joel Kotkin- shedding more light by covering demographic, social and economic trends around the world.

      Probably, these developments are all part of a common but unstoppable evolution as a species! Individually however, we still have some discretion to make the most fitting & informed decisions and oppose its political acceleration!


  8. avatar

    Where are all the unionized good ‘ol jobs ?

  9. avatar

    Girls tend to outperform boys in ICT at school, but tech careers are dominated by men. I think that women can be as good or even better coders than men. It’s just a matter of interest.

    There are great resources that can teach women even to program industrial robots:

  10. avatar
    catherine benning

    One more response to this thread. How can we get more men and boys to code? Perhaps if you spent the time training men and boys for the jobs you want to push onto unwilling women they may be in a position to feed their families and pay their rent.

    Why you want women to do this and any other work that suits the male psyche? Is it because women are cheaper and much more flexible when it comes to be pushed around in the work place?.

  11. avatar

    First of all I think coding is very important in our today’s society and we need to be in a constant education of technology.
    And yes, most of the jobs of game producers or computer engineers are awarded to men, but why do we need to force the increasing of female programmer and coders?
    I think it’s not right to influence the development of the assignment of jobs.
    That’s why the quota of women related to management positions is unnecessary. If women will want to do a certain kind of job, from my point of view they will have to face the same requirements as men and they will success if they are actually made for this job.
    It is also important to mention that many schools have already included computer science in their curriculum.
    In my opinion this is a step in the right direction. At last everyone has the freedom of chosing their jobs based on individual interests.

  12. avatar

    Why would we force them it doesn’t make any sense
    Let them do what you want

  13. avatar
    alec stanton

    Let girls make their own decisions.

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More debate series – View all

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.