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New club aims to foster interest in coding

Alex Youtsey, News Editor

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At the first Girls Who Code meeting at the Northbrook Public Library, members register on the organization’s national website. According to Helen Yeung, facilitator of the club, the objective of the club is to promote equality among male and female programmers. Photo by Richard Chu

The total number of students nationwide who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer and information sciences was 59,581 in 2015. Only 18 percent of the total were female.

Helen Yeung, facilitator of the Girls Who Code Club at the Northbrook Public Library, said in an email that she has seen an imbalance in the ratio of men to women in coding during her career in structural engineering. This inequality influenced her decision to start a local Girls Who Code Club.

“The gender gap widens in many firms because a lot of women are discouraged from pursuing a career at firms due to the gender disparity and lack of support,” Yeung said.

She started the club at the Northbrook Public Library because she was unable to find one nearby where she could volunteer, she said.

“Because of my experiences with the gender disparity and subtle but inherent culture of discrimination in the engineering field, I have a passion for trying to change the dynamic and help the next generation of girls have a different experience and be more equipped to deal with some of the issues they may face in the future,” Yeung said.

According to Yeung, her goal for the club is to provide an experience for girls to develop skills or interest in computer science or related fields. Students will learn at their own pace using the national Girls Who Code organization’s lessons before working together to create a team project of their choosing.

“I think that girls are not exposed to as many opportunities in the STEM fields through extracurricular activities or [are] less encouraged to pursue STEM subjects by peers, parents or lack of [female] role models,” Yeung said.

Sophomore Lily Glaubinger, a member of Girls Who Code Club, said she enjoys coding because of the achievement she feels after her successes. 

Yeung said the club accepts girls and boys from grades 6 through 12 who submit an application prior to each term. The club’s first term began on Jan. 24 and will continue each Wednesday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. until the final meeting on May 16. Terms roughly correspond to the length of a school semester and attendance is limited to 15 students per term due to size and resource constraints.

Junior Lia Devereux said she was interested in joining the club since she takes AP Computer Science A, but was unable to participate because it conflicted with her athletic schedule.

“Our computer science class … is a very much hands-on, [project-based] kind of class,” said Devereux. “Primarily, you’re always coding for a majority of the class. So, continuing that through the club and picking up new tricks and tips [would be helpful].”

Glaubinger said she believes more girls should learn computer science and its applications, which includes coding.

“I think that computer science and programming is the way of the future,” said Glaubinger. “It’s really important for as many people as possible to learn just how it works.”

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New club aims to foster interest in coding