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Mindy Kaling, Girly Girls, and the Future of Tech

Get off that feminist high horse and embrace pink for girl coding power.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Actress Mindy Kaling turns on the charm during "Google's Made With Code" event to inspire girls to code. (FilmMagic for Google)

The 'get girls interested in coding' push is growing from techie pet project to mainstream movement. Now it has a celebrity spokesperson. A very girly spokeswoman to be precise. 

"For someone like me who does identify as traditionally girly, it’s a good way to trick girls into thinking its fun and colorful and then they stay because they can do other stuff with it."

Actress and TV producer Mindy Kaling of The Office and the Mindy Project is a spokesperson for Google's new Made With Code initiative. And she says, meeting girls where they are is definitely the way to go. 

And if you look at the Initiatives and after school projects popping up left and right with names like Girls Who Code, Girl Develop It, Girls Teaching Girls to Code, Black Girls Who Code... well, there's a lot of pink mixed in with the computer science. 

We want to know why? And if it is really necessary to embrace gender norms on the path to bridging the gender divide in tech. 

(Listen to our episode 'The Way We Teach Computer Science Hurts Women' for a sense of why this is so urgent).

 

In this episode: 

  •  Mindy Kaling, actress, TV producer, first Indian-American to create and star in her own sitcom
  • Jocelyn Leavitt, creator of Hopscotch (and best friend of Mindy Kaling)
  • Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code
  • Carol Colatrella, author of Toys and Tools in Pink
  • And some 14 year old girls explaining code to host Manoush Zomorodi. 

 

    Music Playlist
  1. Gutter Bunny
    Artist: Kenneth J Brahmstedt
  2. WWAD
    Artist: Nicholas Rod
  3. Cufflinks
    Artist: Jack Ventimiglia

Guests:

Carol Colatrella, Mindy Kaling, Jocelyn Leavitt and Reshma Saujani

Hosted by:

Manoush Zomorodi

Comments [7]

Anna from Brooklyn, NY

As a young women I find the whole event pointless if the girls aren't actually learning to code. I learned web design through having a tumblr like most teen girls. It started by just wanting to change a few things, back then I didn't know much about html so I did alot of cut and pasting code. Eventually I wanted to make my theme more unique and decided to learn a few things from w3schools. Eventually that led me into jquery and javascript. I also taught my self the basics of c++.

Getting girls to code shouldn't be about using girly apps that use snippets of code the user never actually sees. If you want to get girls to code you have to show them how they can apply it to the things they want to do.

Jul. 03 2014 08:27 PM

What is the point of the Google event? Marketing, presumably. As for whether people - boys or girls - like coding and think its fun, my guess is that adding lots of pink and purple colors is not really going to be the determining factor. Do the kids enjoy the logic involved in learning coding?

I didn't hear anything in this piece that would provide any rational basis for taking a different approach to teaching coding to a girl, as opposed to a boy, other than trafficking in superficial stereotypes. Oh, girls want to be dancers and make jewelry and make up. Blecch.

Could it be possible that a girl might exist who doesn't want make up and a purse for her birthday. Have none of these people ever heard of a girl who is good at math and science, and doesn't have to be tricked into with lots of pinkness and jewelry? God help us.

Jul. 02 2014 09:01 PM
Deidre from New York, NY

Here's the point that they've missed in this discussion, that occurred to me while listening to this report: diversity breeds change. The model of arcane coding to produce software is outdated. By introducing more girls to this process, it's inevitable they'll think about doing coding differently and collaboratively. I look forward to seeing what these girls invent as a new way to code. Admiral Hopper anyone? Manoush Zomorodi talks about coding alone and considering my best friend (who left the pure coding world to become a physicist) 20 years ago was doing just that, and people in coding (particularly men) are STILL sitting in a room/cube by themselves putting a string of arcane abbreviations together, I'm struck by how people seem blinded by how OUT-DATED the programming model is.

Male coders have drunk the Cool-aid. You need some female coders to step in to be a catalyst to more efficient and easily understandable coding languages and methodology.

Yes, there's a real selling point of, "making bank" to sell to young women, but I think the real selling point is talking to them about how they're NEEDED for their unique insight and high communication skills? I know when I was younger (and even now) I loved being truly helpful to something bigger than myself and I found being helpful to my family and community to be extremely feminine. The words, "I need your help," were irresistible to me and I find that to be the case with all of my young nieces. I went on to have a career in Finance and develop investment portfolios for my friends.

Frankly, we need these girls help to change how applications are designed and built and I'm hoping this program is extremely successful.

Jul. 02 2014 07:53 PM
c from manhattan

i'm learning front-end web design and occasionally look at NTC, although haven't been in a long while (since the $1 logo story, to be exact).
i used to be a huge fan of the mindy project until on one of her episodes she (jokingly) commented about not caring about the environment, as in recycling and climate change.
the writing has steadily declined since, and her single minded, man-obsession has ballooned out of control. EVERY episode is about men and mindy's unhealthy relationship with them. dating men, dumping men, kissing men, getting dumped by men, doing anything to get a man, doing anything to get away from a man, the men in the office, the men in the office down the hall, the male police officer, etc., etc.
how is a man-obsessed television character an appropriate spokesperson for inspiring women into the technology / coding field?
the one GDI class, a beginning PHP course, was a huge disappointment. my online questions were ignored, and my class questions were responded to with snotty, defensive commentary. it was appalling!
if this is how women are treated when seeking education and training in the tech field, web design, and programming, i have nothing but compassion!

Jul. 02 2014 08:38 AM
Peg

So. If females code in pink, do males code in blue? Do female teachers teach in pink too? And, since most teachers are female, do most students learn in pink too? Are the preponderance of female teachers harming male students?

"Pinky Girls" - Yucch!

Jul. 02 2014 07:19 AM
Chriss from Montclair, NJ

At a time when girls are out performing boys in almost every category, it's odd that we continue to have stories like this that continue with the meme that our girls are in such a bad place.

Why is there only 1 man at my sons elementary school? What about his role models?

I was happy to hear you address the simple issue of: maybe girls don't like it. Stunning.... Girls are different than Boys.

Even in tech.

Jul. 02 2014 06:01 AM
DC from Brooklyn, NY

Just as long as they don't get on the Soylent train.

Jul. 02 2014 05:51 AM

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