Hackathon participants Chloe Satin, Emma Zwick and Malika Devries.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Press for Progress—a call to action to collectively create gender-inclusive environments. In celebration of the date, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the women and programs Barrick has supported over the years to bring about meaningful change for women in our partner communities.
In the first part of this three-piece series, Lucy Ho, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Education for Hackergal, tells us why inspiring young girls to take up coding plays a key role in tackling the gender gap in the tech world. Lucy oversees the operations of Hackergal and leads the development of Hackergal’s programs where she manages relationships with public and private school boards nationally in Canada.
Last year, Barrick partnered with Hackergal to launch the largest country-wide hackathon in Canada so far. More than 2,900 girls from schools across the country participated in the event.
We invite you to read Lucy’s blog below.
By Lucy Ho
Did you know that the first opportunity girls (and boys) have to select computer science-related courses is in the eighth grade when students pick their high school electives. Up until this point, the only exposure most youth have to computer science, programming or coding is either through camps — which can often be out of reach due to cost — or what they see and hear at home, online, on television, in the movies, or in their surrounding environment.
This is important because not only is computer science education hit or miss among youth, but most of these outside influences depict men in computer science-related roles. And we know this matters because, in Canada, 95 percent of developers are men. And in the gaming industry, that number is even higher at 99 percent, despite the fact that the fastest-growing segment within gaming is women 30 and older.
As a young Canadian woman who is considered the exception rather than the rule, I knew I wanted to be a part of the change we need to see in Canada. I wanted to be a part of the solution. Thankfully, my business partner, Ray Sharma, CEO of Extreme Venture Partners, shared my vision and together we created Hackergal in 2015 to help address this gender gap in Canada.
Through a series of pilot projects, we discovered there is a lack of interest among young girls in computer science; thus creating a gender gap as early as high school when computer science elective courses are generally first offered. Through Hackergal we target this middle school population with a free program to make coding fun and accessible to both students and educators.
Hackergal’s most unique program is its Hackathon Education Program working directly with teachers in grades six to nine. Hackergal’s unique plug-and-play approach engages teachers and encourages them to also learn code with very simple guidelines and material. We want teachers to feel empowered to teach coding to girls—reinforcing the fact that coding is fun and easy to learn when given the proper tools and instruction.
Only through generous donations from community partners like Barrick is Hackergal able to offer its hackathon program free of charge. The program allows for implementation at a mass scale so that students and schools across Canada (public and private) can participate. In fact, Hackergal’s most recent hackathon in December resulted in Canada’s largest hackathon in history, attracting more than 2,900 middle-school girls from over 80 schools across the country. Our goal is to conduct two hackathons per year, engaging more than 50,000 middle school girls over the next three years, including in Canada’s northern communities.
We chose to partner with Barrick not only because it stands out for its commitment to diversity in the workforce, but because the Company is at the forefront of the digital transformation in the gold mining industry—which maps to our own focus on innovation. Barrick’s Chief Innovation Officer, Michelle Ash, serves as an amazing role model for the girls Hackergal is trying to reach. We appreciate the hands-on support and participation of Ms. Ash and her team in the implementation of our 2017 hackathons.
We look forward to continuing to break records in 2018 with the support of Barrick and other forward-thinking community partners. If you’d like to know how you can get involved in the Hackergal movement and learn more about Hackergal’s capital campaign, please visit www.hackergal.org.