Czechitas: coding a brighter future for the girls of the Czech Republic

Inspiration can strike anywhere. For Dita Přikrylová, it came while sitting in a programming lecture at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic. The only woman in her class, surrounded by men, Dita was struck by the enormous gender gap in computer science. From that moment, she vowed to bridge the divide and change the industry for the better.

Dita realized the issue needed more than another non-profit organization, it needed a movement, a sisterhood, which could open the world of information technology (IT) to women and young girls. Fast forward to 2013; Czechitas was born.

Czechitas’ mission is simple: ‘get more IT to girls, and more girls into IT.’ Despite a booming tech industry in the Czech Republic, where 10 per cent of all new jobs are developers, the past twenty years has seen the total number of women working in technology decline by 15,000 – something Dita wanted to fix.

“At first, I really just wanted to meet other girls working in IT. The trouble was there were not many – either studying at university or working in technical roles. So, Czechitas originally started as a weekend experiment where we taught girls, especially my girlfriends, how to code their first website,” said Dita. “This turned out to be a huge success. We broke a lot of self-imposed stereotypes of the girls so they could understand IT was not just an industry for men.”

In four years, Czechitas has grown from providing female tailored courses in areas such as programming, web development, graphic design, digital marketing and data analytics to offering more than 150 courses across the Czech Republic and Europe every year– supporting more than 4,000 female graduates.

Through its partnership with Microsoft, Czechitas also launched a new Academy of Programming; a series of introductory coding workshops for young students aged between 8 and 26. By simply signing-up online, schools and teachers around the Czech Republic can access a range of free training and resources such as Kodu, TouchDevelop, Lego Boost and Visual Studio as well as Hour of Code online tutorials to easily bring computer science into the classroom.

With the support of Microsoft, Czechitas has more than quadrupled the number of schools participating in the Academy of Programming from 25 to 136 – with over 5,000 children across the Czech Republic completing courses. The secret ingredient of Czechitas success? Creativity.

“It’s no exaggeration when I say creativity is the soul of Czechitas. Only through creativity can girls actually see the power of computer science – bringing their ideas to life and solving real-world problems. Who wouldn’t want a career doing that?”

Upon seeing new research from Microsoft, revealing ‘creativity’ as key to encouraging girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Dita nods her head enthusiastically, saying, “Hands-on, creative approaches and showing meaningful application of technology is the cornerstone of our programs. That’s why we also offer career advice to our Czechitas, introducing them to industry mentors so they can understand how the skills they’re learning help them develop creative solutions to real-world problems.”

Despite Czechitas success, never one to rest on her laurels, Dita admits there is still a lot of work to do by way of the organization’s goal of getting more IT to girls and more girls into IT. And while she’s excited for the future of the organization, she’s more excited about seeing the future of Czechitas’ girls turning their inspiration – just like she did – into a reality.

Inspired by the work Czechitas is doing to level the digital skills gap? Why not try an Hour of Code this Computer Science Education Week 4th – 10th December 2017. For more information on how Microsoft is helping today’s youth get ready for the future, visit our new Digital Skills website.

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