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Mums Inspire Their Girls To Be Their Own Captain Marvel

Young girls and their mums are coming together at coding workshops aimed at changing their perception of what the internet can -- and should -- look like: more Captain Marvels and less men in hoodies.

Sarah Moran's heart beats for computers.

It's an image she and her "girl gang" of tech role models have worked hard to re-imagine, years after she was pushed out of the field in Year 10.

It started at home with her parents not understanding technology, and rolled into the school computer room that was "filled with nerdy dudes" at lunchtime.

"I would lie to my friends and tell them I was going to choir practice -- which was also pretty socially unacceptable but less socially unacceptable!" she told 10 daily.

Sarah Moran (R) is now one of five co-founders of the Girl Geek Academy. Image: Supplied

The moment that broke her was pinned on a pink-themed website she created for a school project.

"I handed it in, and almost failed. When I asked the teacher, he said, 'yours didn't look like everyone else's," she said.

"I thought, if computer science to doesn't want me, I'll put my time elsewhere."

Years later, Moran said this remains a real risk for schools, particularly when students are more equipped than their parents -- and often the teachers themselves.

While there is a growing interest among young girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), new research conducted by Microsoft Store, in partnership with YouGov, found a lingering lack of access and female role models in the industry.

The research surveyed 536 girls aged 12 to 17 across the country, 52 percent of whom said they would consider a role in the industry.

READ MORE: Tarsh Belling Gives Emotional Shout Out To Mums On International Women's Day 

Of those who answered no, 30 percent said they did not know enough about prospective jobs.

Crucially, 95 percent of all the girls surveyed said having a female role model was important, yet only 18 percent of them could name one.

Moran remembers the feeling as she later moved into a "tech-adjacent career" in digital marketing.

"My friends in technology and I kept asking each other, 'where are all the women? How can we make sure other girls don't get pushed out, and that they find friends and the tools to be successful?"

After creating the first all-women hackathon in 2014, the group of five founded Girl Geek Academy -- a company that runs school holiday workshops in Melbourne to up-skill parents and female guardians in coding alongside their girls.

"It's all about bringing a role model along with you, so that young girls can have someone who can help them when they leave," Moran said.

'Captain Marvel' Smashes Box Office And The Patriarchy
Image: Marvel Studios
'We Need More Captain Marvels'

Apart from Moran's girl gang of co-founders, she has one other role model: the lead female character of 2019's biggest-grossing film to date.

After 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel marks the first time an MCU film has been led by a woman.

READ MORE: 'Captain Marvel' Smashes Box Office And The Patriarchy

Moran said the influence of popular culture in encouraging young girls to consider STEM cannot be underestimated.

"We're doing workshops to physically help girls one-on-one ... but how do you reach more of them?

"Through pop culture. You need to do both."

These school holidays, Microsoft is holding similar coding classes that will feature Captain Marvel.

'I Have Power At My Fingertips'

Even at 10 years old, Chloe sees coding as a problem solving tool.

"I fee like I have lots of power at my fingertips," she told 10 daily.

"It basically means that with anything I feel like I can't do properly, I can make something that can."

Chloe and her mum Nicola, who is Chief of Staff at email service FastMail, attended one of the first Miss Makes Code workshops several years ago. Chloe, too, had been to coding classes at school where she was the only girl.

Image: Supplied

"It sucked the wind out her sails and she stopped attending," Nicola told 10 daily.

"Having workshops where you are surrounded by like-minded people who look like you, and with role models is so powerful."

Now, the mother-daughter duo are role models themselves, helping and supporting other young girls who attend.

"I like that now girls like me are starting to understand there's no difference between boys who code and girls who code -- and that girls can do this without being laughed at," Chloe said.

Nicola enjoys the second half of the workshops -- a talk from organisation Women's Health East on the under-representation of women in STEM and its links to gender inequality and violence against women. She said it has prompted wider discussions at home.

"They have opened Chloe's eyes to the degree of inequality," she said.

Featured image: Marvel Studio

Contact the author ebrancatisano@networkten.com.au