Code: Debugging the Gender Gap

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
Code: Debugging the Gender Gap Movie Poster Image
Docu cites bias against girls in tech; some coarse language.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 80 minutes

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Positive Messages

Women are as good at math and science as men and they shouldn't be discouraged from studying those subjects and taking jobs in the mostly male tech industry.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Women who have experienced bias in the workplace speak up about harassment, hoping to improve working conditions. Many strong, independent women find themselves the only coders at their companies, or among few female students in their engineering classes. They face prejudice and abuse but they try to serve as role models for other girls and women who may want to enter the tech industry.


Internet trolls harass a software engineer on social media after she publicly complains of sexual bias at her workplace. One troll threatens her with rape.


Women software engineers and coders complain that tech workplaces don't provide a comfortable environment for them. Some complain of open sexual harassment. Others say that women don't get promoted to leadership positions in the tech world because of their gender. Two male software designers come up with an app called "T-tStare."


"C--t," "t-ts," "a--hole."


Apple products are displayed.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that  Code: Debugging the Gender Gap is a 2015 documentary about the scarcity of women, girls, and minorities in computer science and engineering. Interviews with women engineers and educators confirm that by high school, social and cultural habits steer girls to fields considered less "nerdy" even though girls are as talented and capable in math and science as the boys who go on to work as coders. Women discuss sexual bias and harassment experienced in the tech industry. Language, including "c--t" and "t-ts," are mentioned in connection with those problems. Two male programmers propose an app called "T-tStare." Internet trolls harass a software engineer on social media after she publicly complains of sexual bias at her workplace. One troll threatens her with rape.

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What's the story?

While girls and boys perform equally well in math and science through middle school, they stop excelling in these subjects by high school, according to CODE: DEBUGGING THE GENDER GAP. The film highlights why this phenomenon urgently needs to be addressed in the face of the tech revolution's influence on the present and future job market. At the time the film was made, only 15 percent of Facebook coders were women. This leaves the wisdom and influence of half the population out of the creation of apps, programs, and other tech products we all use. The problem is partly supply. The film states that only ten percent of U.S. high schools offer computer science courses, and boys tend to take those courses when they're offered. This led one woman to create an app called Kodable, designed to teach kids to code at an early age. The few women who do get the necessary training face bias in largely male-dominated software engineering workplaces. One woman at Github went public about sexual harassment at her office and she was trolled on the internet by colleagues who tried to ruin her reputation. One even threatened her with rape. But the toughest barrier may be cultural bias against women in science in math, which starts with the way we talk to young girls about their roles in the world. Director Robin Hauser Reynolds interviews a wide-ranging group of women, men, and girls about the problem and possible solutions.

Is it any good?

This documentary does its best to avoid presenting a monotonous collection of talking heads warning about the dangers of shutting women and minorities out of the tech industry. In that effort, tinkly music plays as statistics and facts appear on screen. Animated segments depict workplace bias. But there is no getting around those talking heads. Fortunately most are articulate and interesting, including professors, code writers, teachers, entrepreneurs, and smart, engaged girls who are excited about writing programs for their phones and computers. Code: Debugging the Gender Gap does a good job explaining why the lack of diversity matters. There were no women on the engineering teams that tested automobile airbags. The bags were therefore designed to protect people of the size and weight of the men who designed them. The result was that early airbags killed smaller people -- women and children. Diversity, the movie suggests, saves lives.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how our education system can help encourage girls to pursue math and science in school and beyond. Do you think some high school girls start losing interest in math because they don't want to seem nerdy? How can we change that perception? Do films like Code: Debugging the Gender Gap help?

  • Given the growing role of technology in modern life, do you think everyone should learn to code in school? Why or why not?

  • Some tech companies are offering opportunities for girls to take computer science classes. Do you think girls and boys are encouraged to go in different directions academically by teachers and schools?

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