“I think part of being a female programmer is that you feel really lonely. It’s really difficult to want to be what you can’t see.”
While this isn’t necessarily a “video game” documentary, it does hinge upon the current struggles that young women face when entering the tech industry, particularly in the pursuit of building apps. For me, that’s more than enough reason for us to cover CODEGIRL here. Not only that! But today is the last day to watch this documentary for free on YouTube. You read that right: this documentary is currently free. If you have a little under two hours to spare, I absolutely recommend that you see it. I’ll certainly be purchasing the film once it becomes available.
To kick off this non-spoilery review, I can’t express enough just how humbling an experience it was to watch CODEGIRL. The documentary invites you on the journey of several teams working for a chance to compete in Technovation, an utterly fantastic opportunity for girls between the ages of 10 to 18 looking to gain essential coding and business skills. As certain teams advance, others are left behind, and each shuffle of players in this entrepreneurial race are as inspirational as the last.
For me personally, the hardest part was watching the reaction from the teams who didn’t make each cut. That kind of disappointment is universal for all of us, I think, especially when you put your whole heart into a project in the hope that it will succeed. Every girl involved seemed optimistic about the future, though, and many expressed an interest in pursuing a career in technology. We can only hope such immensely talented, driven individuals enter an already difficult business. CODEGIRL reinforces the fact that this industry desperately needs their voices.
As we meet more teams who are addressing real needs in their communities, the message becomes clear: inspiring confidence in young women is half the battle. Now we need to fund their work.
This was, at least in my opinion, a documentary far better suited to tackle the rising visibility of women and girls in the tech industry than, say, GTFO The Movie set out to be. Where that particular documentary stumbled on the subject of fostering a space for their voices, CODEGIRL allowed the narrative of those effected by this shift to truly shine, particularly those who are marginalized. That was both a relief to see and inspiring to be part of. Obviously, they’re two very different films with two very different lenses, but the subject matter is, relatively, the same. In CODEGIRL, you’re immediately swept into real human experiences on a level that only a truly masterful documentary can convey, and for that, I applaud this team. This was as accessible as it was deeply moving to witness.
The excitement of these girls was so palpable, so visceral an experience to watch, that each time a team advanced to the next round, I couldn’t help but feel invigorated by their sudden cries of joy. From start to finish, CODEGIRL invites you into the world of teenage girls who are poised upon the precipice of adulthood. They exchange deeply motivational nuggets of wisdom in the same breath that they’re discussing whether or not they’ll all be attending prom. The struggles that face their community concerns them as deeply as preserving their friendships with one another. For anyone woefully ignorant enough to assume teenage girls are the vapid, materialistic purveyors of the selfie era, let this documentary stand as the final proof against that ideology.
As all women do, these girls carry the weight of our hopes and dreams upon their backs as easily as they shoulder their school supplies. That there are initiatives like Technovation out there willing to support and tell their stories is utterly imperative to the long-term success of the tech industry—and that includes the gaming side. Nothing truly worthwhile will ever be achieved until everyone has a seat at the table, and trust me, you want to be hiring these girls.
Now for the fun part! CODEGIRL was directed by Lesley Chilcott and is currently available for free on YouTube (only for today, November 5th). You can also watch the documentary in Hindi, Español, or Português. For more information, check out their website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.