Dismantling stereotypes: Boys and Girls are different, but not when it comes to coding


As every parent knows, boys and girls are different. They may have different character traits and different interests. Evolution has its reasons for coming up with these differences. When it comes to coding though, the view that it is a boys' subject is a misconception. It is one of those stereotypes that needs to be dismantled.


Luckily children themselves are often not aware of this stereotype. I can safely predict that in the after school coding courses starting soon we will naturally end up with a split that's very close to 50:50 between boys and girls. It's parents who may sometimes worry whether their daughters will like coding or who ask us whether there will be any other girls on the course (answer: yes, more on this later).


Let's have a look at where the stereotype comes from. Coding is often associated (correctly) with a logical and systematic way of thinking, similar to Maths and sciences such as Physics. These subjects (especially Physics) are often also (wrongly) described as boys' subjects. Both my wife and I studied Physics (in different Universities) and in both instances the male to female ratio was very skewed. But this was 20 years ago. Luckily things have improved since for subjects such as Physics and Engineering, and the same is true for coding.


Up until a decade or two ago, coding was often restricted to a niche group of people: software developers and scientists in subjects such as Maths and Physics (again!). Today however coding is part of many other jobs and professions that are historically less male-dominated.


So yes, in the past, most programmers were male, but this has nothing to do with the subject being more suited to men. Coding is now taught in some form or another to all schoolchildren and there is no reason, moving forwards, why fewer girls should go on to pursue coding further.


Coding is a subject that requires both logical thinking and creativity

At the margins of the discussion about stereotypes on coding for boys and girls is another misconception about coding: that it is not a creative subject. This is wrong on many counts. Coding is a an exercise in problem solving but problems that are solved by coding always have several solutions. Creativity is needed to find the neater solutions. In some ways coding is similar to the arts. We have tools at our disposal that can perform certain tasks and the role of the coder is to use those tools to create a computer program in a similar way to an artist using his or her tools to create a painting, say.


Coding is being used more and more as a tool in the creative arts as well, whether it is to create visual effects in films, or to apply effects to photos and other images, and more. Once again, these are subjects that are historically less male-dominated than Physics and Engineering, say.


We should not have Coding for Girls courses though

At codetoday we deliberately choose not to run courses specifically aimed at girls because this would only reinforce the wrong stereotype that somehow coding for girls is different to coding for boys. It is not.


We never try to engineer the demography in our courses and on average we get a 50:50 split between boys and girls naturally. Do we notice any difference in achievement between boys and girls? No. Do we observe any difference in engagement between boys and girls? No. Do we notice any areas of coding that boys prefer or that girls prefer? Once again our answer is no.


It's time to wave goodbye to the many stereotypes surrounding coding, starting with the one that portrays the subject as a boys' subject. Coding is for all, boys and girls, young and old, scientists and artists.

Read more about our Coding in Python weekly after school courses for kids and teenagers, boys and girls…



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