Avast teaches girls to “Code Like a Hero”

Grace Macej 30 Apr 2021

In celebration of International Girls in ICT Day, we empowered budding techies with a beginner’s JavaScript workshop

Established by a United Nations agency that specializes in information and communication technologies (ICT), the very first International Girls in ICT Day was held ten years ago in Geneva, Switzerland. Since then, the annual observance, which falls on the fourth Thursday of April, has been celebrated in various cities around the world. Research has proven that, while many girls tend to find an interest in ICT around age 11, 35% lose that interest by about age 15. International Girls in ICT Day was founded to focus specifically on that particular age group of girls, to show them that the field is much more interesting than they may have thought. 

This year, the festivities were all online, of course, which allowed for even more global participation and a wider array of fascinating events, including an Avast workshop called “Code Like a Hero.” Led by Avast’s own software engineer Janine Luk and senior AI researcher Elnaz Babayeva, the workshop served as an easy introduction to JavaScript for girls aged 13-19. Presented in partnership with TechGirlz, the talk demystified coding and demonstrated that computer science is not difficult. In fact, as the workshop revealed, it simply requires skills that the girls already use every day. 

Janine and Elnaz gave the girls a safe, “there are no silly questions” space and filled them in on a little tech history – did you know the first computer programmers were women? Grace Hopper was spotlighted in the presentation, a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy who programmed the Mark 1 computer during World War II. In doing so, she created the world’s first computer language compiler (a system that translates code into binary numbers), which led to the creation of common business-oriented language (COBOL).

The girls in the workshop got some hands-on training, learning how to open the dev tools on their own system and type their first programming commands. They used variables, created functions, and, by the end of the instruction, had programmed their systems to ask questions, collect data, and make specific calculations. About bananas. 

International Girls in ICT Day was started as a worldwide effort to encourage and empower women in the tech field, an effort that we at Avast support one hundred percent. We also happen to be strong believers that, yes, there should be a lot more women in the field of ICT. The UN calls it “the world’s fastest growing sector” and estimates that it will give rise to two million jobs over the next five years. The opportunities are out there. And so are female-empowering workshops like “Code Like a Hero,” helping girls realize that the tech world is fun, approachable, and filled with exciting possibility. At the end of our workshop, the girls filled out a feedback survey, and we were very proud to see that 100% of them agreed that they were inspired to continue coding and pursue their tech journey further. We call that a win.

Furthering industry knowledge

For young women looking to make their way into the tech industry and learn how to code, we’ve got three tips on how to get started:

  1. Learn on your own time – there are plenty of valuable resources available online. A great site is code.org, where you’ll find hundreds of free online classes and tutorials.

  2. Enroll in the academies and classes offered by our partners, including Czechitas in the Czech Republic, Aj Ty v IT in Slovakia, and Code First Girls in the UK.

  3. TechGirlz regularly host many free online classes on various topics for beginner, intermediate and advanced students. Check them out.

Further reading:
Aj Ty v IT: Q&A with Petra Kotuliakova
Code First Girls: Q&A with Anna Brailsford

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