Is “Pinkifying” a good strategy to get girls into coding?
Paul Graham is one of the founders of Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley tech accelerator (Lapowsky). Graham has also perpetuated sexist stereotypes such as in an interview in 2013 when he said:
God knows what you would do to get 13 year old girls interested in computers. I would have to stop and think about that (Tiku).
Graham was making the offensive and too common assumption that the shortage of women in tech starts with a lack of interest. Research has shown that the issue is not interest, but rather a lack of encouragement, access and support from a young age (Cereijido).
There are many different initiatives that are working to increase the representation of women in tech that are specifically aimed at middle school students. One strategy that has mixed reviews is “pinkifying” coding. This refers to upping the feminine factor in coding and making it “girlier”. Emily Reid, the former curriculum director of Girls Who Code, believes the intentions are good, but the strategy is flawed:
The problem comes with assuming girls won’t be inherently interested in computer science — that things like “pink and princesses” are needed to lure them in (Dupere).
Supporters think that the strategy is important to create a comfortable atmosphere for girls. Kimberly Bryant is the founder of Black Girls Code and for her, the intention of pinkifying is to show that coding is for females just as much as it is for males (Dupere).
I think there is power in pinkifying coding and it is important right now to emphasize that coding is not just for males. However, it can also contribute to the narrative that Paul Graham buys into, namely that girls don’t find coding interesting and that computer science needs to be girlier for them to enter the field.
Until computer science becomes a more inclusive environment, pinkifying is here to stay. It’s necessary to demonstrate that computer science is for everyone. That’s a lesson that people like Paul Graham need to learn.
Cereijido, Antonia, and Alina Selyukh. “Why Aren’t There More Women In Tech? A Tour Of Silicon Valley’s Leaky Pipeline.” NPR, NPR, 21 Dec. 2016, www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/12/21/505864391/why-arent-there-more-women-in-tech-a-tour-of-silicon-valleys-leaky-pipeline.
Dupere, Katie. “To Let Girls in, the Tech Industry Is Thinking Pink. But That Isn’t Enough.” Mashable, Mashable, 24 Jan. 2016, mashable.com/2016/01/24/coding-girls-pink/#2fe9k5QoxEqI.
Lapowsky, Issie. “Paul Graham on Building Companies for Fast Growth.” Inc.com, Inc., Sept. 2013, www.inc.com/magazine/201309/issie-lapowsky/how-paul-graham-became-successful.html.
Tiku, Nitasha. “Paul Graham Says Women ‘Haven’t Been Hacking For the Past 10 Years.’” ValleyWag, 27 Dec. 2013, valleywag.gawker.com/paul-graham-says-women-havent-been-hacking-for-the-pa-1490581236.