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Learning beyond gender and stereotypes: Notes from the classroom

January 31, 2020

#Classroom #Kids Gender EqualityInternational Women's DayWomen in Tech

Once in a while, our Rocket Launchers (i.e. curriculum developers) get to catch their breath and set aside time to reflect on their learnings and observations from the classroom. Here, Chrysalis discusses a topic that’s close to our heart – the gender balance – or lack of – in the classroom. Being a minority can be lonely – sometimes even more so for a child – an observation that doesn’t go unnoticed to our predominantly female core team that runs classes with almost always more boys than girls in them. We don’t have any quick fixes or straightforward answers, but here’s where we are on this.

When I say the word “Programming”, what comes to your mind? 

Now, what comes to mind when I say “programmer”? 

And what was this person’s gender?

In a world of constant disruption – where Technology, Artificial Intelligence, and Programming are buzzwords as we combat the climate crisis and other humanitarian challenges – the world is changing at a faster pace than ever.

Yet, gender stereotypes haven’t changed – at least not fast enough. Most people would picture someone working in tech as male; perhaps even a male on a laptop with headphones on and curtains drawn.

As an instructor who teaches programming to kids ages 5 and up, it’s not uncommon to see classes filled with only male students, or to have only one girl in a class with 5 other boys.

My curious kids sometimes ask, “Why aren’t there any girls in the class?” or “Why am I the only girl?” To which, I respond, “I’m a girl, too!”, and hope that for now my presence as a woman in front of the classroom provides them the solidarity and role model they need.  

Comments like this reflect the reality of the tech industry – one where females are still severely under-represented.

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s also the stereotype of males being a rarity in preschools.

At Saturday Kids, our range of courses includes those designed for kids who are in preschool or about to enter primary school. At that age, many parents and kids are used to being led and handled by female instructors, as is the norm in many local early childhood institutions, primarily for concerns related to safety. We often discuss this internally: should we only hire and assign female instructors to teach those courses?

At the end of the day, we believe that regardless of gender, both males and females should have equal access to programming, and to other areas of life. And when it comes to hiring instructors, we can’t afford not to look beyond gender, and instead focus on the strengths and weaknesses of each individual.

2020 has already begun, and a new year beckons new opportunities. The winds are just starting to shift when it comes to addressing stereotypes in programming and tech.

We continue to advocate for more balanced gender representation in, and in front of the classroom. But as we do, we believe that we can make a bigger impact when we create classroom environments that compel all kids look beyond stereotypes and inspire them to appreciate themselves and others as the multi-dimensional humans they are.

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If this struck a chord, or if you have any thoughts, ideas, or feedback to share – we’d love to hear from you. Please write us at hello[at]saturdaykids.com, and let’s start a conversation.