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Hackergal extends to Western Canada, encourages girls to explore coding

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WATCH: A charity that encourages girls to explore opportunities in STEM, coding and computer science announced on International Women's Day that it's expanding across Western Canada. Tiffany Lizée explains – Mar 8, 2021

A charity that encourages girls to explore opportunities in STEM, coding and computer science announced on International Women’s Day that it’s expanding across Western Canada.

Hackergal has partnered up with Shaw Communications Inc., to launch a new Student Ambassador program in Western Canada and expand their National Hackathon program.

The charity’s co-founder and executive director, Lucy Ho, said the goal is to “empower and inspire girls to explore the endless possibilities in code.”

“My message to all of the girls across Canada — that are sitting at home and have identified that they’re passionate about STEM, and what technology can do for the world — is that you can be the next CEO of whatever company you imagine,” Ho said.

Learning to code can help teach and prepare girls for a career in STEM, which can be a complex industry. Hackergal/Supplied

How it started

As a young girl interested in STEM, Ho said she didn’t see many women in the tech sector, which was discouraging.

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“For us to make a change for younger generations of girls entering into STEM, (they) need to see role models and they need to see people that look like them in this field,” Ho said.

Read more: Canadian women are on track to reach gender equality in 164 years, experts say

In 2015, she helped co-found Hackergal to encourage girls to explore computer science.

“I asked myself, how can I encourage more girls to get into tech and this was a fun way to do it through the experience of the Hackathon program.”

The charity’s goal is to create a movement of girls coding across Canada, by sparking their interest and confidence at an early age and ultimately closing the gender gap in the sector.

Lucy Ho, co-founder of Hackergal, said the goal is to empower and inspire girls to explore the endless possibilities in code. Hackergal/Supplied

The programs

Both the Student Ambassador and Hackathon programs work to boost enthusiasm around science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and computer science education for girls.

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“The Student Ambassador Program is a community for like-minded girls to be inspired, supported, and connected to industry experts and opportunities as they pursue technology-related studies,” added Ho.

Ho said their student ambassadors are “changemakers, storytellers, and future leaders.”

The Hackathon program is designed to get girls in Grade 6 to 9 across Canada excited about STEM and computer science education. Hackergal/Supplied

Janat Baig got involved as a Hackergal student ambassador, after attending a Hackathon event.

Hackathon brings middle school girls from across Canada together to code a project focused on creating social impact change.

“I would have never even considered a career in tech – which now, thinking about it, would be totally weird because now I’m so dedicated,” Baig said.

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Read more: Confidence in math has become a major problem for girls in school

The programs open doors to an entire network of people already in the industry but also connect them with other girls who have the same enthusiasm for coding and computer science.

“I’ve been able to meet a lot of women in STEM who have given me advice on how they’ve succeeded and done well,” student ambassador, Nicole Liu, said.

“I have these connections and I have this support system of girls who are also interested in tech before I even pursue it as a career.”

Hackergal was founded with the mission to help bridge the gender gap in technology and computer science fields by introducing female students to code through their Hackathon programs. Hackergal/Supplied

The partnership

Shaw Communications Inc. has also jumped board this initiative, by becoming a regional partner and supporting the Hackathon program.

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With the expansion across Western Canada, the charity’s two-year goal is to provide coding education and programming to more than 3,000 girls.

Since launching in late 2015, the Hackathon program has already exposed computer science education to over 20,000 girls.

Read more: Women in STEM: the ongoing struggle against inequality

Shaw Communications vice president of external affairs, Chethan Lakshman, said the company is proud to partner with the charity, “helping to make the gender gap in these fields a thing of the past.”

“Through our partnership, we are excited to help Hackergal expand their programming to educate and inspire young women to feel empowered, to dream big, and challenge the status quo,” Lakshman said.

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