Cracking the STEM inequality code

The road to encouraging more girls to explore other interests through a fun and immersive coding curriculum

Cracking the STEM inequality code

Cracking the STEM inequality code – the road to encouraging more girls to explore other interests through a fun and immersive coding curriculum. This month’s International Women in Engineering Day (23rd June) gives women around the world a profile when they are still hugely under-represented in their professions. In the UK, only 13% of the overall STEM workforce are women1. Addressing this shockingly low number of female STEM professionals continues to be a hotly debated topic with many industry experts disagreeing on the best ways forward to implement positive change. 

In the mind of Justin Nihiser, CEO of Code Ninjas – the coding franchise for kids – the road to encouraging more women into the industry does not come from applying pressure on young people. Instead, Justin believes that creating a fun, engaging and safe environment will start to build a love for technology and coding that will last a lifetime. Here, he details how the international coding franchise has created an environment that encourages, values and nurtures all – no matter your gender. 

The significance of female role models

Changing gender inequality in the STEM workforce is not something we can achieve on our own, but in our network of more than 490 locations internationally, we can make a difference. As part of this, it’s crucial that we take time to celebrate and share the incredible successes our students have already had. Recently, we had our first female Black Belt – Cameryn. She’s achieved the highest possible honour at Code Ninjas, reaching the pinnacle of the curriculum which will result in her own game that can be shared with countless others. She isn’t done with Code Ninjas though, now she wants to be a Sensei and help other Ninjas on their paths to achievement! We’ve also seen real success recruiting female university students who work as Senseis studying STEM courses. Along with our female franchisees, they are fantastic role models not only for our female Ninjas, but for everyone that attends our sessions. 

Shivantika and Sangeeta Pandey at our Putney location are brilliant examples of two females being successful in a technology-based business. The fact that the pair are mother and daughter also adds a brilliant generational element, which is inspirational to all those wanting to pursue coding. By sharing these stories, we break down stigmas around coding and unlock even more opportunity for our franchise network.

New curriculum focus

The fun element of the curriculum is something we want to continue to emphasise because we feel this is what continues to increase appeal for children – both new and existing. Coding is a language which you must absorb to truly unlock its potential, but this does not have to be prescribed, mundane or overwhelming. Once you have the fundamentals you can construct games and apps around your own interests, and the possibilities of these creations are unlimited. Cameryn’s game is called “Pansy Kitchen”; however, another Black Belt will create an entirely different gaming experience. This diversity of outcome is a very attractive part of our overall curriculum offering and keeps our Ninjas, both boys and girls, coming back for more. 

Learning at your own pace

Our flexible schedule allows kids ages 5-14 to learn to code year-round at their own pace. We don’t want our Ninjas to feel pressured to keep up with their peers or feel restricted by the pace of the curriculum. At Code Ninjas the curriculum adapts to their needs to maximise the fun of the experience. Overly specified learning will just lead to disengagement. By ensuring our programme appeals to all children, it increases the demand of our service and creates a greater market appeal for our worldwide network of franchisees. 

Our mission

I truly believe that having more women working in diverse roles in tech is vital to the ongoing growth and evolution of our incredible industry. However, regardless of whether your kids pursue a career in coding, Code Ninjas teaches them confidence, logic, resourcefulness and a love of technology that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Our role is to create a lasting affection for coding through a fun and immersive environment. In a world full of demands on our youth, we do not want to force future careers on them but instead give them the tools and opportunities to decide their own fate – no matter their gender. 

Justin Nihiser
Justin Nihiser