The diversity problem isn’t caused by any one thing. From bogus hiring practices to discriminatory work environments there’s an uphill battle being fought on many fronts. The statistics can be grim, as noted in a recent New York Times article which called attention to the fact that in the fortune 500 there are more chief executives named John than chief executives who are women. In the past 30 years the percentage of women working in STEM fields has gone up by only two percent – and this is during an explosion of demand in the tech industry. Now that most companies rely on computing regardless of their industry, the lack of women in computer science jobs is a problem that if left unchecked would permeate every level of the corporate landscape for years.
A new survey of high school students has shown that the root of the problem might run deep. Although 70 percent of Canadian boys and girls believe it will be “extremely or very important” for their careers to know how to program, the boys
were nearly twice as likely to agree they are “extremely” or “very” interested in pursuing careers involving coding [and are] likelier than girls to agree coding was “interesting,” “cool,” or “important,” and less likely to call it “difficult”
– Sean Silcoff, Globe and Mail, Feb 21, 2018
This is where Hackergal comes in. Hackergal is a not-for-profit organization that introduces girls to code through a hackathon, aiming to inspire a generation of young women to bring equality to the tech industry. These hackathons – events in which programmers work together, generally over a limited time, to develop an application or solve a problem – take place in schools across Canada, and they’ve become truly massive. The most recent winter event, held in December 2017, set a record for the largest hackathon in Canada and saw 2,900 middle school girls participate.
The program works by teaching code in classrooms around the country in preparation for the actual day of the hackathon, on which the girls will work on an assignment that uses the skills they’ve learned in the classroom. By structuring the hackathon this way, Hackergal creates an environment in which the girls can learn to code alongside classmates and build confidence in a skill that can last a lifetime.
“Hackergal is so much more than a hackathon. It is a tool to inspire young girls.”
– Garth Chalmers, VP University of Toronto Schools Techvibes, Dec 13, 2017
It’s estimated that in the next ten years over one million tech roles will need to be filled in North America. With Hackergal’s help, we can ensure that girls are empowered to fill these roles, help build a disruptive tech industry, and change the ratio when it comes to women in tech.
“With encouragement like this, more girls and young women will gain confidence in science, technology, engineering and math, and pursue educational and career choices in these fascinating and growing fields.”
– Hon. Scott Brison, President of the Treasury Board of Canada
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