CodeGirl is an inspiring film and will be of particular interest to young women interested in technology and their parents and teachers.
It’s no secret that there’s a huge gender gap in the tech world: For instance, over 80 percent of app developers, a $77 billion industry, are male. One program intended to address this gender gap is the Technovation Challenge, in which teams of schoolgirls compete to develop apps to meet a need in their community. CodeGirl follows several of those teams as they work on developing their app, and includes segments about all six teams that made the Technovation finals—three from the United States, one from Brazil, one from India, and one from Nigeria.
The variety of the projects undertaken by these young women is impressive. Team WoCo, whose members attend a boarding school in Andover, MA, developed PraisePop, which encourages users to make positive connections with each other. Team AMEKA, from Winchester, MA, developed SafeGuard Driving, which tests an individual’s reaction time and balance, and determines if they are too impaired to drive. Team Charis, from Calabar, Nigeria, developed Discard-ious, which allows people to request carts to remove wastes from their home, thus making it easier for them to dispose of waste properly. Team Portmund, from Recife, Brazil, developed The Last Drop, a game that teaches children about water conservation. X-Women, from Bangalore, India, developed cAppAble, an app to connect people with disabilities to social services and employment possibilities. Puppy Sized Elephants, from Cupertino, CA, developed My Cash Count, which helps people who have trouble handling money to find the exact dollar and coin denominations they need for a transaction. And that’s just this year’s finalists: other teams developed apps to assist people in sharing or renting tools, finding volunteer opportunities, finding safe sources of drinking water, and becoming more aware of domestic violence.
It’s very impressive to watch these young ladies develop their apps, from an initial idea through to the final product, which the finalists present on stage as if they were pitching to investors. Everyone involved with the Technovation Challenge seems to be really nice, as do the competitors, who are poised in their presentations but let their girly teenage sides show through in more casual moments. That sends an important message—you can be successful in tech without becoming a competitive monster, and you can make a good piece of software without having to be perfect in every way—but it does leave the film feeling a bit light. Last-minute visa problems are highlighted but seem irrelevant to the main matter at hand, and the competition itself, which could have provided an obvious source of tension, seems almost like an afterthought. In other words, I wasn’t exactly holding my breath to see which team would win, but that’s due to the fact that old cliché about all the participants are winners is true in this case.
There are also some unexplored issues that would have made this film more insightful. For instance, it would have been interesting to know more about the backgrounds of the different teams and the schools they attend, and perhaps an examination of socioeconomic privilege and its relationship to success in this type of competition (it’s free to participate, but it goes without saying that some students have more access to the necessary resources to succeed than do others). It would also have been nice to see more of the hard work of product design and coding: surely there were moments of tension or frustration, and omitting those makes this film seem like the Disney World version of software creation. For all that, CodeGirl is an inspiring film and will be of particular interest to young women interested in technology and their parents and teachers.
Extras on the disc include the film’s trailer and six deleted scenes, some of which feature teams that did not make the Technovation finals. More information about the film, and about women in technology, is available from the film’s web site. | Sarah Boslaugh