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It's a Girl's Game Too!

This isn't your typical story about the low numbers of women in the technology space or the wage disparities for those workers. I'd like to share from the viewpoint of someone who doesn't really care. Someone who's been willfully ignorant of the statistics and the personal stories behind those numbers.

My name is Joe. I'm a software developer. I love programming. I've been coding professionally for more than 25 years, and I've worked for some big-named companies.

"My." "I'm." "I." "I've." Yep. That about sums it up. Before kids, it was all about me. Now, I'm the father of three brilliant, talented, and gorgeous kids. All girls - ages 10, 13, and 16.

Having kids changes you. They make it possible to view the world differently. It's no longer only about how things affect yourself, but how they affect those tiny carbon copies of yourself.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. It's starting to sound like I might actually care about the struggles my brood will face. Bah! Humbug!

The Statistics in 2011

If you're looking for definitive numbers, you'll have to search elsewhere. At this point of the story, it's still about me.

I've been teaching game programming to teens and tweens in North Carolina every summer since 2011. Training and mentoring in the corporate world is a passion of mine. But, high school kids? They were as foreign to me as any distant locale.

That first year was a blur. The students were hyper-motivated and didn't want to take a break from creating our game. They remained in the classroom during most of the recreational and break times. And, of course, if they stayed, I stayed.

There were only five students that year. We got the class formed late in the season, and there wasn't much time to promote it. Those five students? All guys.

My eldest (who was too young to attend the camp that year) pointed out that it was easy to tell which students were in my class. She had some preconceived notion of what a game programmer should look like. Geeky. White. Young. Male.

When she pointed it out, I chuckled and agreed.

The Statistics from 2012 Through 2015

In 2012, I got my first female student—Micki. Since then, I've had at least one young lady in every class. In fact, the girl-to-boy ratio has remained consistent, at around 1-in-5.

After the novelty of "Hey, maybe one of my girls will want to take dad's camp next year!" had worn off, I started to think about that 1-in-5 ratio. 20 percent? Surely there are more female gamers out there. Aren't they closer to half the gaming population? I Googled it. Yep. They are.

So, maybe it was programming that wasn't drawing more X chromosomes. More Googling. Women make up: 60% of undergrads, 50% of math and science majors, and 20% of computer science majors.

20 percent? There's that number again! Apparently, 20% female enrollment is the number to expect for my camp.

The Stats in 2016 ... ?

This year, I've decided that the status quo isn't good enough. I want to have that ratio get closer and closer to 1-in-2 female students.

If I've learned anything lately, it's that you don't have to be an activist to make a difference. If you want to affect change, you can just influence your little part of the world, and hope to inspire others to do the same.

I discussed it with my wife, and we've decided to sponsor two young ladies for the 2016 game programming camp. Room, board, and tuition are covered. Travel to Banner Elk, NC, is not.

The Call to Action

So far, I have more than a dozen applicants for the two scholarships. Promoting via social media is hard, and the results are unpredictable. Involved write-ups and promo videos get one or two hits at most, while brief mentions in other venues may generate ten times the traffic.

I'm asking for your help. If you know a young lady who's into gaming and may be interested in learning how games are made, please have her visit my application survey. Near the top is a 15-minute video that tells about the camp, my class, me, and the scholarships.

I know 15 minutes is a large chunk of your time. That's why I'm suggesting that you delegate the task of viewing to an interested teen! Surely you know at least one geek-chic who would love to build a game this summer?

The application:  https://codetopia.typeform.com/to/GJfYNC
The details: http://why2k.org/

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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