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JOHANNESBURG – The Vodacom #CodeLikeAGirl programme is growing by leaps and bounds and is inspiring more young girls to enter the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Vodacom plans to train 1 500 young girls in coding in this financial year, bringing the number of girls trained through this programme to 4000 since 2017. This is a testament of the growing importance of this initiative which is designed to bridge the gender digital gap in South Africa.
The Vodacom #CodeLikeAGirl programme is aimed at encouraging girls to explore careers that require coding skills in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields and industries. Not only does it help develop coding, but the programme also teaches girls valuable life skills, under the guidance of accomplished mentors who are passionate about technology.
The #CodeLikeAGirl programme was launched in 2017 in Tembisa, teaching coding skills to 20 girls from schools in the area. Since then, it has expanded to Mozambique, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Lesotho, which is testament to its immense success and popularity.
STEM careers, also known as the jobs of the future, help drive innovation, social wellbeing, inclusive growth, and sustainable development in society.
However, not enough women enter STEM careers. Around the world, STEM graduates are still overwhelmingly male. A Unesco report, titled “Cracking the code: Girls’ and women’s education in STEM” found only 35% of STEM students in higher education globally are women. Young women also comprise only 3% of students in engineering or information and communication technology (ICT).
Speaking at the first day of the 2022 edition, Njabulo Mashigo, Human Resources Director for Vodacom South Africa, said: “Vodacom wants to address the underrepresentation of women and girls in STEM education and careers, and we’ve seen the immense difference #CodeLikeAGirl makes to these girls, which is why we are building on the programme each year.
“The gender disparity in STEM is alarming, especially since these are the jobs of the future. By teaching high school girls how to code, we’re opening their eyes to sequential thinking around problem-solving and stimulating creativity and design skills.
“As part of our Vision 2025 strategy, Vodacom is on a journey to becoming a technology company or ‘techco’ from a telecommunications operator, or ‘telco’. We believe that planting a seed now, we are preparing our industry for a technology ready future. Girls need encouragement because traditionally, they aren’t thought of as innovators. With the right skills and a confidence boost, girls will feel empowered to aim for the skies – whether that’s literally as pilots or astronauts, or as software developers, engineers, statisticians, or architects.”
By the end of the programme, each of the girls will be able to develop their own websites and present their work to the rest of their coding class.
“The world is becoming increasingly reliant on digital technology, which is why coding skills are so prized. With digital transformation, we are seeing a higher demand for jobs with STEM skills, such as coding. Median wages in STEM careers are more than double that of non-STEM occupations. STEM careers are also expected to grow at more than double the rate of other occupations soon.
“Most people aren’t aware that half of all computer programming positions are in industries such as finance, healthcare, and manufacturing. Coding has become such a critical skill that it elevates a candidate’s chances not only of landing positions but also of commanding higher salaries,” concluded Mashigo.”