Why girls DON'T need to learn to code

This is a byline by Richard Protherough, managing director of Spring Technology
As the English summer begins, there are two things that are certain: Brits will keep calm and carry on complaining about the weather, and virtually every newspaper and blog will publish an article encouraging girls to take up coding and parents to enlist their daughters in coding camp. 
Coding has become this season’s fashionable one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the gender gap in IT and telecoms. There is no doubt that there is a problem in the industry. After all, recent research by Spring Technology noted that women make up a remarkably low 16 per cent of the UK’s total IT and telecoms workforce. However, the obsession with coding could be doing more harm than good. 
There is no doubt that the current focus on coding is well-intended; it is a useful skill and something has to be done to address the gender balance in the technology industries. However, IT and tech careers have all too often been portrayed in a narrow light – as groups of coders gathered together in dark rooms drinking one can of Coke after another and discussing online gaming – like a particularly mundane episode of The IT Crowd, with more binary and fewer jokes. 
Such an image does a disservice to the IT industry, and drastically underestimates the range of jobs available in IT that do not involve coding. Coding, for example, is not a necessary skill in the career of an IT engineer, an IT business analyst or an architect to name but a few. 
In a rush to address the gender gap in IT and tech, the importance of coding has been raised up to hubristic levels, culminating in five-year-olds being required to learn to code as part of the National Curriculum from September 2014. By the age of 11, pupils are required to “design, use and evaluate computational abstractions that model the state and behaviour of real-world problems and physical systems”.  
The issue with this approach is that some young girls may be put off completely. By touting such a niche field as all-important to the development of a future career in IT, we risk putting girls off an entire industry that has an extremely wide variety of interesting, exciting and fulfilling careers to offer. 
The solution to addressing the gender balance in the IT industry is uncertain, but by settling for a simple answer, we may be compounding the problem. Repeat after me: Not every girl needs to learn how to code. 

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