Amy Poehler Wants Young Girls to Be Coders of the Future
Even with more girls getting into gaming these days, women continue to be unrepresented in the tech industry. Now a video series produced by Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls organization, which focuses on empowering young people, hopes to inspire tween and teen girls to become creators of video games, not just consumers.
The organization recently partnered with some of the developers of the popular Electronic Arts game The Sims 4. It took three teenage girls to visit The Sims Studio in Los Angeles so they could see how they can apply their talents to computing.
The result is a three-part YouTube series that shows teens Celeste, Tcarla, and Amisha going into the Electronic Arts building and learning how their interests apply to professional game development. Although the teens met with male developers, Smart Girls’ leaders put an emphasis on pairing them with female creators.
“It’s all about making young women aware of different kinds of careers and making female role models in those fields visible to them,” Maggie Lyons, Smart Girls’ director of development, told Mashable. “If they can’t see people like themselves doing something, it’s harder for them to envision themselves doing it.”
In one of the clips, Celeste, a 13-year-old dancer, sits down with an animator to see how he programs a Sim’s dance movements—he uses footage of Celeste’s choreography for reference. In another episode, Tcarla, a 17-year-old with a love of guitar, meets with audio engineer Marielle and is able to see how music is created for the game. In a third clip, Amisha, a 14-year-old with a passion for photography, is shown how digital worlds are designed when she’s paired with the game’s art director and senior producer.
The need for partnerships such as this one is there: Although women make up more than 50 percent of the general workforce, they represent only 26 percent of professionals working in computing occupations. A December survey from Pew Research Center revealed that most Americans—including women—believe that most gamers are men. However, the majority of women between 18 and 29—57 percent—are gamers.
Lyons said Smart Girls chose to partner with The Sims because the game gives players the freedom to create their own stories and explore their creative interests. Though the game is based in the digital world, young girls are learning to apply its spirit to their own lives.
“In The Sims, I can create a world that’s my world,” says Amisha in her video. “I can be things I can’t be right now but I’m hoping to be in the future, so I can have my Sim grow up to be a scientist already, and I can see that’s going to be me someday.”