Meet the 14-Year-Old Who Founded 'Girls Will Code'
Do you remember being ten years old? Playing with your friends, doing the little homework you had, and enjoying the carefree existence of childhood? Isabel Sieh, now fourteen, remembers exactly what it was like being ten; it's when she first began teaching herself how to code.
Isabel discovered her passion for coding when she started taking lessons online. From there, she tried to find a club or community with which she could share her passion, but quickly realized that while there were clubs for everything from music to fencing at her school, there wasn't one for coding.
Starting Girls Will Code
"Most coding clubs for girls were in America," Isabel says. "That inspired me to start Girls Will Code here in the Philippines."
Although Girls Will Code has now grown to work with large companies such as Google and Accenture, beginning it was new and rocky terrain for Isabel. She first tried to start a club at her school.
"Only one person signed up, so the club was cancelled," she reflects. "Even though my first attempt didn't go as planned, it taught me valuable lessons in starting a club. When I moved schools I tried again, and zero people joined."
But Isabel kept trying. She got help from a teacher, visited each individual fifth-grade class to demonstrate, and in the end got fifteen girls to sign up.
Teaching at public schools
When she was twelve, Isabel taught coding at a public school in Antipolo.
"It was hard finding a way to teach them, especially since the computer was not up to date and did not have Wi-Fi," Isabel admits. Learning from this experience, Isabel quickly got to work on developing her offline coding kits. But why is it so important to teach girls how to code?
"Coding is what powers technology today, and is what will power technology in the future."
"It can help solve world problems that we face such as infectious diseases and more. But the problems of women cannot be properly addressed if there are so few who know how to code," she says.
Coding is a very useful skill as, according to IBTimes UK, over the next ten years even "jobs not directly linked to computer sciences—such as banking, medicine, and journalism—will also be affected by the need for at least an understanding of programming and coding."
Isabel still occasionally teaches at public schools, but finds ways to teach offline using her kits instead of using computers.
Growing Girls Will Code
According to their website, Girls Will Code is a community that encourages girls to participate in activities related to coding, programming, robotics, and engineering. It has come very far since Isabel's club-founding days.
Isabel was invited to speak at the Rappler Social Good Summit 2016 alongside some very accomplished businessmen and women. Afterward, emails began pouring in through the Girls Will Code website, and one was from the Google Developers Group in the Philippines. She was asked to speak at a Google coding event at the Google offices in the Philippines, and was also invited to visit the Google offices in Mountain View, California.
Aside from Google, other companies are keen on helping Isabel achieve her goals.
"Accenture just organized and hosted an amazing Girls Will Code event that exposed over 40 girls to code, and other companies offer to buy our offline kits to teach those without access to computers," Isabel says. "All the support has offered me great opportunities to experience the tech industry."
Balancing school and work
With all of these accomplishments, it is easy to forget that Isabel is only fourteen years old, having to run this organization and keep up with schoolwork at the same time.
"Sometimes I would have to skip classes, and it was just a huge hassle," Isabel says. "We are working with Google and Accenture to train girls 10-16 to be Ambassadors for Girls Will Code, so they can help build a community, rather than piling all the teaching on myself."
Isabel's passion for coding still shines through with every project she takes on. She has a strong belief in her cause, and continues to pursue it with each passing day.
"The best part is the results," she confides. "It's an amazing feeling when you see how much a girl has learned or how they have been inspired."
To learn more about Girls Will Code, visit their website at girlswillcode.com.