Fox Valley Girls Coding Club looking to break stereotypes

Skylar Nafziger, 15, of Elgin works on her laptop during a meeting of the Fox Valley Girls Coding Club, the XX Coders, at 25N Coworking in Geneva. (Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)

GENEVA – Robin Schroeder said she was taking a tour of 25N Coworking in Geneva when she heard about a club that was preparing to start meeting there, the Fox Valley Girls Coding Club, also known as the XX Coders.

The club, aimed at high school girls, was created to provide opportunities for young females hoping to learn about software development. On its website, www.foxvalleygirlscodingclub.com, it mentions “a long-standing imbalance in the ratio of men/women in technology.” Schroeder, who works in the field, said she can verify that.

“A lot of times, I’m the only one,” Schroeder said of the lack of females in the industry. She said she wanted to get involved, and she left her business card.

The Fox Valley Girls Coding Club meets on Friday nights at 25N Coworking, at 25 N. Third St. in Geneva. The student founder is Isabella Maki, a sophomore at St. Charles North High School. Her mother, Mary Ann Maki, said her daughter would have preferred to join an existing club but didn’t find any options. So far, there are about 12 girls in the club, Isabella Maki said.

The instructors are Schroeder and Dottie Lee, who has worked more than 16 years as a software developer. Schroeder and Lee said they are committed to helping girls embrace the opportunities the club can offer. The first club project will be working on the Geneva Film Festival’s website, www.genevafilmfestival.org.

Isabella Maki said she wanted to learn more about coding after hearing about the Girls Who Code organization while watching “Project Runway.” When she decided to start her own club, she said she was nervous at first about whether she would have enough participants, but several friends and others jumped right in.

“I do think there is a lot more interest than you would think,” she said. “A lot of girls would be interested, but they don’t really know enough about it. … A lot of people I’ve talked to didn’t even know what it was.”

‘Creative problem solving’

Schroeder said females who might be interested in a career using software development might be scared off. Some might be intimidated and think it might be impossible to do. Others might think it is a field dominated by men who don’t have good social skills. She said she recently went to an event that drew 57 men. Schroeder said she was the only woman there.

“When you think of IT people, they are introverted and non-social,” she said. “It’s not [necessarily true]. … I comb my hair. I wear makeup. My office is clean. It’s kind of breaking that mold. It doesn’t have to be the guy from ‘Jurassic Park.’ ”

Lee said all it’s really about is “creative problem solving.” She called it “a fun thing to do.” Schroeder said computer programmers are “professional problem solvers.”

Schroeder and Lee said it’s a challenging field, but they said it’s not one that is extraordinarily difficult to grasp. Lee said she first broke into the field at age 49, and she stressed that those interested – male or female, younger or older – should give it a try.

“You don’t have to be a mathematician,” she said, adding that “a lot of people can do it. I don’t know that I would say everybody can. … To me, it’s not that hard to do a good job on it. You have to be an intelligent person, but you don’t have to be a genius.”

Isabella Maki said those in the club have improved after the first few meetings.

“It is difficult at first to grasp some of the concepts,” she said. “As you learn more and more … it becomes easier for you to figure it out.”

Joining the club

Mary Ann Maki said those interested in joining the club can visit www.foxvalleygirlscodingclub.com or send an email to fvgcc12@gmail.com. She said 25N Coworking has been an ideal location for the meetings. And now, the club has its first big project.

Club members will be working on the Geneva Film Festival’s website. Lee called it “a big project.”

Kelsey Rankin, the communications chair for the Geneva Film Festival, said the volunteer organization was looking to freshen up its website. The festival takes place from March 10 to 12.

“Nothing major, but we did ask them for a couple of projects to help us,” she said. She added that the website will move over to a new platform.

“It will give them some experience on a real-life website,” Rankin said.

That can be beneficial for those hoping for a career in the field, but Schroeder said even those who aren’t interested in pursuing it as a potential job would benefit from the program.

“There is no career on planet Earth that they will ever have, even as a stay-at-home mom, that doesn’t involve a computer,” Schroeder said, adding, “If they have more patience and understanding of how a computer works, they will be better off.”

Know more

Those interested in joining the Fox Valley Girls Coding Club can visit www.foxvalleygirlscodingclub.com or send an email to fvgcc12@gmail.com.

GENEVA – Robin Schroeder said she was taking a tour of 25N Coworking in Geneva when she heard about a club that was preparing to start meeting there, the Fox Valley Girls Coding Club, also known as the XX Coders.

The club, aimed at high school girls, was created to provide opportunities for young females hoping to learn about software development. On its website, www.foxvalleygirlscodingclub.com, it mentions “a long-standing imbalance in the ratio of men/women in technology.” Schroeder, who works in the field, said she can verify that.

“A lot of times, I’m the only one,” Schroeder said of the lack of females in the industry. She said she wanted to get involved, and she left her business card.

The Fox Valley Girls Coding Club meets on Friday nights at 25N Coworking, at 25 N. Third St. in Geneva. The student founder is Isabella Maki, a sophomore at St. Charles North High School. Her mother, Mary Ann Maki, said her daughter would have preferred to join an existing club but didn’t find any options. So far, there are about 12 girls in the club, Isabella Maki said.

The instructors are Schroeder and Dottie Lee, who has worked more than 16 years as a software developer. Schroeder and Lee said they are committed to helping girls embrace the opportunities the club can offer. The first club project will be working on the Geneva Film Festival’s website, www.genevafilmfestival.org.

Isabella Maki said she wanted to learn more about coding after hearing about the Girls Who Code organization while watching “Project Runway.” When she decided to start her own club, she said she was nervous at first about whether she would have enough participants, but several friends and others jumped right in.

“I do think there is a lot more interest than you would think,” she said. “A lot of girls would be interested, but they don’t really know enough about it. … A lot of people I’ve talked to didn’t even know what it was.”

‘Creative problem solving’

Schroeder said females who might be interested in a career using software development might be scared off. Some might be intimidated and think it might be impossible to do. Others might think it is a field dominated by men who don’t have good social skills. She said she recently went to an event that drew 57 men. Schroeder said she was the only woman there.

“When you think of IT people, they are introverted and non-social,” she said. “It’s not [necessarily true]. … I comb my hair. I wear makeup. My office is clean. It’s kind of breaking that mold. It doesn’t have to be the guy from ‘Jurassic Park.’ ”

Lee said all it’s really about is “creative problem solving.” She called it “a fun thing to do.” Schroeder said computer programmers are “professional problem solvers.”

Schroeder and Lee said it’s a challenging field, but they said it’s not one that is extraordinarily difficult to grasp. Lee said she first broke into the field at age 49, and she stressed that those interested – male or female, younger or older – should give it a try.

“You don’t have to be a mathematician,” she said, adding that “a lot of people can do it. I don’t know that I would say everybody can. … To me, it’s not that hard to do a good job on it. You have to be an intelligent person, but you don’t have to be a genius.”

Isabella Maki said those in the club have improved after the first few meetings.

“It is difficult at first to grasp some of the concepts,” she said. “As you learn more and more … it becomes easier for you to figure it out.”

Joining the club

Mary Ann Maki said those interested in joining the club can visit www.foxvalleygirlscodingclub.com or send an email to fvgcc12@gmail.com. She said 25N Coworking has been an ideal location for the meetings. And now, the club has its first big project.

Club members will be working on the Geneva Film Festival’s website. Lee called it “a big project.”

Kelsey Rankin, the communications chair for the Geneva Film Festival, said the volunteer organization was looking to freshen up its website. The festival takes place from March 10 to 12.

“Nothing major, but we did ask them for a couple of projects to help us,” she said. She added that the website will move over to a new platform.

“It will give them some experience on a real-life website,” Rankin said.

That can be beneficial for those hoping for a career in the field, but Schroeder said even those who aren’t interested in pursuing it as a potential job would benefit from the program.

“There is no career on planet Earth that they will ever have, even as a stay-at-home mom, that doesn’t involve a computer,” Schroeder said, adding, “If they have more patience and understanding of how a computer works, they will be better off.”

Know more

Those interested in joining the Fox Valley Girls Coding Club can visit www.foxvalleygirlscodingclub.com or send an email to fvgcc12@gmail.com.

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