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Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

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Meet the schoolgirl tech leader teaching girls to program and make robots at home during lockdown – Avye Couloute, Founder of Girls into Coding

Avye Couloute

In 2018 aged just 10 years old, with the support of her mother, Hélène, Avye Couloute founded Girls Into Coding, a social enterprise that engages girls with coding and hands-on tech activities. Girls Into Coding was granted the status of Community Interest Company in early 2020 and Avye has entrusted Hélène as director and project manager to steward the Girls Into Coding (GIC) mission. Avye started coding and attending workshops when she was just 7 years old and now leads coding workshops at GIC and other community events.

Avye Couloute
Avye Couloute

“If we want to ensure that women of colour are properly represented in STEM, it’s important to make women of colour working in STEM visible.”

Discovering coding

I went to a coding club when I was 7 and at the club, we learnt basic languages such as Scratch. From there, I started attending CoderDojo workshops where I got introduced to the Microbit and electronic components that could be controlled with it. They were really hands-on and exciting.

After attending quite a few CoderDojo workshops, I gradually started to run them alongside someone else and after a while was able to run them on my own.

Getting hands-on

I really enjoy making robots; it’s much more fun to visually see something physical happen as a result of your code rather than just focusing on the screen. It doesn’t always have to be robots; there are endless projects that involve programmable components. It’s just more fun for me and more hands-on.

Avye CoulouteI also like physical computing because you get to handle different components and use them to bring projects to life.

I’ve always loved making stuff; it gives me a chance to be creative and resourceful. The things that I make and projects that I have worked on have given me opportunities to experiment, invent, discover, share, network, collaborate, challenge myself and grow.

Conceptualising Girls into Coding: Tech is not just for boys!

Girls Into Coding was an idea that I had when I was 10. At this point, I had moved from attending workshops at Coderdojo to preparing and delivering them myself at the Kingston University Dojo and at other community events.

After repeatedly observing that most attendees at my workshops were boys, I wanted to help more girls to access these events and was determined to encourage more girls to give STEM a go. As a result, I decided to set up Girls Into Coding (GIC) – a series of events targeting girls and encouraging them to explore and enjoy STEM subjects and to encourage them to pursue further STEM activities, education, and careers.

Avye Couloute
Avye is able to run her own sessions

Girls and women are under-represented in STEM and our generation has a chance to change that. Girls Into Coding is my way of contributing to that change.

Working alongside my mum

Mum and I make a great team. I feel blessed and grateful that she is now working with me. Since 2020, she decided to commit full time and is now the managing director of the Girls Into Coding programme. She has been my supporter since day one, she has extensive experience in many business areas: digital marketing, account management, project/operations management, relationship building… I could not have dreamt of a better partner for our social enterprise.

Adapting to COVID-19 and creating new ways to engage during lockdown

COVID-19 has impacted our organisation in many ways. Because of social distancing, we could no longer safely organise in-person events. We needed to rethink our strategy and find ways to keep engaging with our community.

To continue making our events hands-on and accessible to girls from diverse backgrounds, we invested time and resources in developing new workshops and adapting hardware that would allow us to move to virtual events. We launched a virtual version of our in-person Girls Into Coding in August 2020 and I deliver robotics workshops as part of that.

Avye CoulouteI designed a robotics kit especially for our virtual workshops, which I post out to the girls along with equipment and materials for them to physically use at home while participating in the virtual events on Zoom. They’ve been really successful and the girls are very engaged and have also had opportunities to be inspired through a range of talks from some amazing women in tech. We’ve delivered seven virtual events so far and we aim to continue our mission to get more girls into tech.

Ensuring women of colour are visible

I think representation is key. If we want to ensure that women of colour are properly represented in STEM, it’s important to make women of colour working in STEM visible. It’s so important that women of colour currently in tech roles keep talking about their experiences and encouraging young women and girls to get involved.

The more visible these women and girls are, the more they talk about their journeys into STEM, the clearer those paths become for girls just taking their first steps. By seeing other women of colour in STEM, girls will not feel isolated. They will be energised and believe that they also can achieve great things in STEM or have their place in the industry.

My role models

Avye CoulouteThere are lots of people I consider as role models and that continue to inspire me. I’m particularly inspired by girls and women who are doing really cool stuff in the tech community. Sometimes it’s their ideas, their determination, their passion, their drive, their energy, their mission, their entrepreneurialism, their attitude, their definiteness of purpose or their courage that I find inspiring.

Future plans

I am really proud of what I’ve accomplished with Girls Into Coding – it’s helped me to inspire more girls to give these kinds of activities a go. Through Girls Into Coding, I now aim to engage at least a thousand girls a year with these hands-on opportunities. I am excited to see more girls engaging with STEM activities and humbled to see Girls Into Coding is having a positive impact on many girls.

There are a couple of upcoming projects that I’m particularly excited about – which I can’t talk about yet but watch this space!

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