Coding is cool. Just ask the young women who took part in Oracle Women’s Leadership’s (OWL’s) fifth annual celebration of International Day of the Girl last month in Pleasanton and Santa Clara, California.
Declared in 2011 by the United Nations General Assembly “to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world,” International Day of the Girl inspires events around the world to “promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights,” according to the United Nations.
Students from American Indian Public Charter School as well as daughters of Oracle employees along with Oracle volunteers gathered at Oracle’s Pleasanton campus.
OWL’s celebration this year brought more than 90 girls from two Bay Area middle schools to local Oracle campuses October 11 and 12 for Scratch coding workshops taught by professional programmers, poetry workshops led by local poet laureates, and role model exercises in which they interviewed Oracle women employees on their careers and personal choices. The girls also toured the Oracle Customer Solution Center, campus, and usability labs.
Their reactions? The coding exercise faced tough competition from poetry writing and role-model interviews but was the overall favorite, according to student surveys. Many of the girls also noted they were inspired by learning from female technologists and hoped to follow in their footsteps.
Here’s what they had to say in their own words:
“I knew that we were going to code and was excited because I had never done that before,” said 13-year-old Olivia, a two-year veteran of the program. Her favorite moment was “looking at the game I had created and realizing I had created it, and that I could do so much more.”
“You can make such interesting things with coding,” said 10-year-old Maxine. “Things such as games, advertisements, and more! It was super fun make a bird fly across the screen with a chirping sound.”
“I wanted to know what Oracle does and how they help change our future,” said 11-year-old Sarah, whose favorite activity also was “when we made animations on the computer.”
But the Scratch coding workshop wasn’t the only star. Campus tours were a high point for several girls, among them 12-year-old Jenna and 11-year-old Aminah. While Jenna’s favorite moment was “going into the labs and touching some of the materials,” Aminah’s was “seeing the cloud storage for the first time.”
“I was hoping to get a better understanding of what female engineers do and what their workspaces look like,” said seventh grader Jaylyn. “My favorite moment from the trip was interviewing female role models who worked at Oracle.”
Thirteen-year-old Mariela appreciated making a personal connection with a female role model as well. “I enjoyed knowing her goals and her setbacks, but how she didn’t let [her setbacks] affect her dreams,” she said.
Ten-year-old Katherine, who attended the event partly “to be a technology girl,” was one of several whose favorite activity was poetry. Others included 11-year-old Habibah, whose favorite moment was “the creative writing and poetry,” and 12-year-old Cristina, who came “hoping to learn how to do programming” but named the poetry writing as her favorite “because it was interesting.”
Students almost unanimously said the experience met their expectations. “I was hoping to get an idea about which field of jobs I am interested in and to extend my knowledge of programming/coding,” said 12-year-old Tejaswi, whose comments were representative of many others. “The field trip met most of my expectations, and I had a wonderful time this year.”
In addition to OWL, Oracle participation included Steve Miranda, executive vice president of applications development, who sponsored the Pleasanton event, and Bill Nesheim, vice president of software development, who sponsored the Santa Clara event.
Participating students came from Buchser Middle School, a Santa Clara middle school with a special program called Girls Advancing In Non-Traditional Subjects (GAINS), and American Indian Public Charter School and Unity Middle School in Oakland—primarily through TechBridge, a nonprofit and Oracle grantee dedicated to bringing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) topics to girls.
Leslie Steere is editor at large for Oracle’s Content Central.