Girls Have App-titude!
True fact: about three-quarters of programmers are men. And Centennial College is doing its part to address the imbalance. On May 15 the college hosted “Girls Have App-Titude,” a three-hour programming workshop that drew nearly 100 young women from nine Toronto high schools from across the city who are budding coders.
The event was put together under the auspices of Science Odyssey, an effort by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to get young women interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Girls Have App-Titude gave students a chance to see that coding can be a fun, creative and rewarding career.
We already know this at Centennial College, where our Wearable, Interactive and Mobile Technologies Access Centre in Health (WIMTACH) features a number of talented female coders – student researchers who’ve already proven their aptitude (or “app-titude”) working on projects with key industry partners.
The Girls Have App-Titude event was co-organized by emcee Melanie Holmes, Community Outreach Coordinator, Women for Non-Traditional Careers, as well as the college’s Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Services (ARIES, which includes WIMTACH). Holmes greeted attendees, who had been shown around campus by Centennial student volunteers, with the hope that their “children will not have to come to events like these in the future!” – meaning that by then women will play an outsized role in the information technology sector.
And it was a strong woman, appropriately, who kicked off the event. Centennial College President Ann Buller, who recounted busting gender stereotypes as a young girl by stealing her brother’s GI Joe action figures and leaving Barbie behind. “There’s nothing in her head!” Buller quipped about popular doll.
President Buller urged students to pursue whatever career aspirations they chose, and to ignore the doubting “monster on your back.” Her message was underscored with stomping and cheering audience participation, and Buller closed with the pledge that all of the students “had the opportunity to make a real difference!” The young women then made their way to the college’s software engineering labs for some mobile app workshops, participated in a team coding challenge, had some lunch, and finally, enjoyed a draw for some Best Buy prizes.
WIMTACH programmers and event facilitators Anjali Macwan, Taranjit Kaur, Avneet Khaira and Elaine Villarino enthusiastically shared their thoughts about working in the field. Macwan, a Centennial Software Engineering Tech graduate, said the school “taught her to know the things she should know,” while another graduate of the program, Elaine Villarino, touted her interest in interactive gaming and VR (virtual reality).
Efforts like Girls Have App-Titude, as well as events put on by the likes of Ladies Learning Code, and Women Who Code, are helping to get more women interested in computer programming. Together it should make for a bright future for women in the IT field, and help to redress the gender imbalance in this vital and rapidly growing industry.