MEET THE DEVELOPER
Herstory in the Making
How a young developer is raising awareness of women in history.
Carolina Gradel is a winner of Apple’s WWDC18 Scholarship, awarded to talented students and members of organizations that promote science, technology, engineering, or math.
When Carolina Gradel enrolled in college in Rio de Janeiro, she resolved to quote at least one woman in every paper she wrote.
This was more challenging than she expected. “Usually men’s work is more documented,” says the 25-year-old digital media student. “One time I was doing work about women and space, and it was difficult to find them—even a year after the movie Hidden Figures.”
The experience inspired Gradel to create Herstory Cards, an app that catalogs important but often lesser-known women in history, such as anti-Nazi activist Sophie Scholl and Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai. It wasn’t Gradel’s first attempt to combat sexism, which she feels keenly in her native Brazil; in 2017 she released Inspiring Women Stickers, a collection of feminist symbols and science motifs.
We spoke to Gradel about how she started coding and the important conversations her apps have sparked.
It’s nice how technology can make real conversations get started.
What got you into coding?
Apple started a program with my college in Rio, and I got accepted into the first class. It was about learning how to code an app and ship it to the App Store—design, UX, UI, everything in between. I had never coded before. My family wanted me to do something more traditional, but I watched the documentary Objectified, about product designers, and I really wanted to do what they do. To be a great designer for digital media, you need to learn how to code.
How have you overcome the challenges of coding?
I try to make apps that matter. I love working on feminist issues; I’m trying to make technology and women’s rights work together.
What activity is coding most similar to?
When you play videogames, you need to get a team—someone to be the healer, someone to be the tanker. Coding is like that; except with apps, you need someone to do the design, the backend, someone to code.
How did your friends react to your app?
When I was making Herstory Cards, one of my friends, who is a guy, had an epiphany: He realized he didn’t know many women in history besides actresses and artists, and understood that this could be very harmful. It’s nice how technology can make real conversations get started.
What advice do you have for students who are just getting into coding?
To try. Sometimes you have an idea, and you spend a lot of time protecting the idea from the world. Don’t keep your ideas in your head. If no one is using it, the idea doesn’t have life.