High school girls gathered at BCIT Downtown Campus (DTC) for the Technovation Girls BC Chapter Spring Break Learning Conference this month, where co-hosts BCIT Computing and UBC Geering Up offered hands-on workshops and career exploration opportunities.
Technovation Girls is a non-profit tech entrepreneurship competition where girls aged 13-18 work in teams to develop a mobile application or Artificial Intelligence (AI) project that tackles real-world problems in their community. The organization’s goal is to promote diversity and inspire and empower girls to be engaged leaders and creative problem-solvers through technology and engineering education.
With five of BC’s top 10 high-opportunity occupations in computing and tech, and over a quarter-million job openings projected in the next ten years, there is room for everyone in tech. Yet a gender gap persists. This underrepresentation of women in STEM education and careers presents a further barrier to female participation in tech design and governance, as emphasized by the UN recently on International Women’s Day.
“In BC, women only make up 18% of the workforce in computing and tech,” according to event organizer Erika Ram, BCIT School of Computing & Academic Studies Specialized Faculty for eLearning. “We hope to encourage more girls to explore these exciting, rewarding and high-demand career paths!”
“We believe events like this help demystify what it means to be a software developer or software engineer or data scientist, and the huge range of roles in technology across sectors” – Erika Ram
Over three days, more than 40 girls learned Machine Learning, Low-code Application Development, Design Thinking and Business Planning. “I was constantly impressed by their project ideas, thoughtful engagement and questions,” says Erika.
With support from donor TD Bank and grants from Shopify, HSBC and Actua, BCIT Computing students led many of the activities: young women in technology seeking to inspire and mentor those who are considering tech pathways.
Guest speakers from companies including Copperleaf, Jetti Resources, Mastercard, Relic Entertainment, Rio Tinto, and Shopify delivered inspiring messages about women in computing, different parts of the tech industry, unconventional education and career paths, overcoming imposter syndrome, following your tech passions and finding a community of like-minded people. Shopify staff also helped mentor the students with their group projects.
“The student employees, volunteer speakers, and mentors were all really amazing and brought so much experience and enthusiasm!” reports Erika. “In our feedback session at the end, most participants expressed that they wished it was a couple of days longer and that they wanted to learn more.”
“We know students are interested in these careers, and we believe events like this help demystify what it means to be a software developer or software engineer or data scientist, and the huge range of roles in technology across sectors,” explains Erika.
In the next phase of Technovation, student teams will go on to finish their projects over the next few weeks and then submit them to the competition in April. From there they compete regionally, and may even advance to the national or global competition.
Subscribe to Tech-It-Out quarterly to keep up with the latest from BCIT Computing