Girls in tech

Avye and Helene, Girls into Coding

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We are joined today by Avye, now 12, started coding & attending physical computing workshops at 7. She is very active in the tech & maker community, dedicating a lot of her spare time to exploring & learning about coding & technology.

Avye leads regular coding & physical computing workshops for Coder Dojo at Kingston University & the University of West London. She has won competitions with the robots which she designs and makes. Nonetheless, she still finds time to enjoy swimming, playing tag rugby & football. She is enthusiastic about sharing her skills & experiences with others and is an Arm ambassador, part of the GenArm2Z program which enables young people to talk to tech leaders about how technology is being used & shaped for the future.

Aware of female under-representation in STEM education & careers, Avye was motivated to found Girls Into Coding to encourage more girl involvement in tech. She has received a Diana Award and The Diana Legacy Award for her work to create opportunities for girls to engage with tech and for fundraising to provide girls with Microbits, physical computing kits & STEM-themed books. More recently, in March she was announced joint winner of 2020 FDM EveryWoman in Technology awards in the ‘One to Watch’ category.

Her mother Helene is the Director of Girls Into Coding. She has a keen interest in STEM education and a background in Digital Online Media & Advertising, and Supply Chain. She is very passionate about engaging more girls with tech opportunities and encouraging continued girl involvement in coding & tech - to help address the female underrepresentation / gender-based discrepancies in STEM education and occupations.


Tell us more about your duo?

My name is Helene and with my daughter Avye we run Girls Into Coding (GIC). GIC is a community interest company and our vision is to see girls and women engaged in STEM activities, education & careers - equally comfortable, with an equal sense of belonging and in equal numbers. Avye is a 12-year-old maker & coder, and she’s the actual founder of Girls Into Coding.

I have a business & Edtech background and my interest in STEM education has grown tenfold through supporting Avye with her passion and I’m really proud of the journey we continue to make together. Like Avye, I’m very passionate about engaging more girls with tech opportunities and encouraging continued girl involvement in coding and tech, ultimately to address the female underrepresentation and gender-based discrepancies in STEM education and occupations. I’m also very passionate about improving access to and sharing the benefits of technology, facilitating and imparting key digital skills to the young generation.

When Avye was 7 she started attending coding and physical computing workshops. They were fun, so she began going to loads of similar events and continued to explore what she was learning at home. At 10 years old she took a leap and decided to share her experiences and skills by co-running coding workshops alongside two adult mentors & soon took on the responsibility for preparing & leading her own workshops for CoderDojo at Kingston University and other community events.

It was quite early on that she became aware that the majority of attendees at her workshops were boys and so, two years ago she founded ‘Girls into Coding’ to get more girls into tech. Girls Into Coding offers girls aged 10-14 an opportunity to explore Coding, physical computing & robotics through hands-on workshops. The events are free to attend and with my help, she reaches out to women & girls doing cool things in the world of STEM, inviting them to give lightning talks at GIC events.

Avye also designs & builds robots, sometimes developing them into kits to be used as part of her workshops. She has also fundraised & secured support to provide books, physical computing kits, and microcontrollers to girls so they can continue their tech journeys at home and beyond.


What is your vision for Girls Into Coding?

Our vision is to see girls and women engaged in STEM activities, education & careers - equally comfortable, with an equal sense of belonging and in equal numbers. We want all girls to feel empowered to access opportunities to learn how to code and develop their making and digital skills. It is crucial for girls to see and hear other girls and women just like them doing cool stuff in the tech space, to allay the notion that ‘it’s a boy thing’.

The core values of: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF; BE A LEADER; BE FEARLESS; BE KIND TO EACH OTHER; SHARE YOUR KNOWLEDGE & SKILLS, are at the heart of the Girls into coding vision.

It’s time to really work on fixing the gender imbalance in STEM - not just because it’s the right thing to do. Not just because girls deserve the same opportunities as boys. But as well as those vital points, because the world needs science and technology now, more than ever, to fix problems, offer solutions, and to help bring us all back together as safely as possible. It’s even more important than ever for underrepresented groups to actually be empowered and supported to create and access opportunities to see their potential realised and for life their chances to flourish.


What do you see as the biggest challenges young girls face today when it comes to tech?

Between the age of 5 and 6, many boys and girls have an equal interest in technology. By the age of nine, a significant gap starts to emerge and girls’ interest in STEM in general seems to drop. While this continues, women remain underrepresented in the tech industry. I think the biggest challenge or barrier is linked to the oft cited adage, ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’ and the perception of tech being a ‘boy thing’. If you don’t get to see someone who looks like you enjoying it, central to it, comfortable with it, successful within it, then it’s probably going to be difficult to see a version of yourself further upstream in the tech world.


As an industry where do we need to focus our attention to, to ensure we have a constant stream of young talent coming in?

As an industry, utilising the media to spotlight emerging and already visible & accessible role models is a must. Many companies and individuals do a good job at inspiring girls with their insights and experiences through various initiatives and programmes. In addition to all of this it is vital that industry and the wider tech community really get behind and support grassroots organisations that are working to create opportunities to engage girls with meaningful, fun and challenging STEM based learning activities. Such organisations can provide a low risk way for girls to explore & develop an interest in STEM and also have the ability to build a tangible community and sustainable support networks.


What’s next for Girls into Coding?

To formalise our commitment, Girls Into Coding was granted the status of Community Interest Company in February 2020 and Avye has entrusted me as director and project manager to steward the Girls into Coding program, giving it the full-time attention it deserves. The success of our events along with the fantastic feedback from both the participants and parents, and members of the wider tech community made it really easy to set high ambitions For Girls Into Coding.

We now aim to engage at least 1000 girls each year with our fun, challenging and engaging workshop events. For the widest range of girls to benefit from these opportunities, we want to continue delivering them at no cost to the attendees. To help achieve our goal of engaging at least 1000 girls per year through our events, GIC is open to collaborating on other projects with other organisations.

No doubt the time frame for continuing to realise this is subject to the uncertainties of the recent situation. Nonetheless, GIC continues to engage with our community, plan, and maintain readiness for normal life to resume, whilst being committed to adapting to the current landscape by exploring the use of available technologies.

Avye and I are driven to make this happen. We are looking for new partners to sponsor Girls Into Coding so we can continue to offer more girls these opportunities. If you’d like to discuss how you can support us then please get in touch at helene@girlsintocoding.com

You can learn more about the Girls Into Coding mission on their website and sign up to their newsletter at https://www.girlsintocoding.com/ to be among the first to know about future events, articles, and news!