News that Ivanka Trump plans take coding classes with her five-year old daughter reminded me how important it is for public figures to use role-model power carefully, strategically. Witness Michelle Obama’s use of fashion as a channel for her message.
I get that women are under-represented in technical fields. I also get that many young women are unprepared to make enough money to buy a car, home, support kids and their own old age. But not everyone is a coder, and the odds are that almost any skill acquired today will be outdated tomorrow.
Jobs are more than coding, and there are more jobs than coding
I’m not minimizing programming skills; they cultivate patience and problem solving ability. But, coding is not the silver bullet of gender equality. Girls need more than C++. They need to be able to read and write and think. Companies have layoffs and starts ups fail. Jobs disappear. Spouses die and family members need care. We age. Technology is a big part of the way we live, but what about education, health care, finance, dog training?
Case in point: a young friend, Mary Hill, was in town to celebrate winning a $100,000 in angel funding. Mary is developing an at-home test for sexually-transmitted diseases, a global market that’s projected to reach $190,000 million by 2022. Mary, I should mention, was raised by a single mom who worked for a state agency. She went to a public high school, an arts magnet no less, and nurtured by a very creative family, was able to take it from there. She doesn’t know how to code, but she is definitely a problem solver.
Apprenticeships across industries?
So, here’s hoping Ivanka’s coding will help. Maybe her example will help her dad encourage some big-pocketed businesses — pharmaceutical companies, large banks, retailers, real estate developers — to invest in some education and training to caulk some of the gaps in our educational system, much like technology companies are doing today with coding sponsorships. It’s good business and smart investing.