November 8 is National Girls Learning Code Day

By: Christine Persaud

November 5, 2014

CP_BMO2_girls learning code - groupMasterCard has declared November 8 National Girls Learning Code Day in Canada, with plans to offer free coding classes across the country for girls and their parents.

The global payments company is joining a growing list of firms shedding a spotlight on the lack of women in the technology field, and looking to change the situation through programs that target the younger generation.

A six-hour coding class, held in partnership with Ladies Learning Code, will take place simultaneously in 15 major cities across Canada: Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Barrie, London, Waterloo, St. John’s, Montreal, Halifax, Hamilton, Fredericton, and Winnipeg. It will welcome more than 700 girls aged 8-13 along with their parents, all of whom are interested in learning the basics of coding.

A lack of encouragement, says MasterCard, is impacting girls’ choices to pursue careers in science and math. And this program will hopefully serve as at least a starting point to foster more encouragement.

Melissa Crnic, Co-Executive Director, Ladies Learning Code

Melissa Crnic,
Co-Executive Director, Ladies Learning Code

“It’s so important to reach girls at an early age especially when the education curriculum is catching up to the marketplace in terms of a computer science focus,” says Melissa Crnic, Co-Executive Director, Ladies Learning Code.

An online survey conducted in September by Angus Reid on behalf of MasterCard found that of the Canadians that consider a career in technology, only 18% are women. And more than half of women (57%) say they have no interest in pursuing a job in the tech industry. Those numbers are disheartening, but indicative of a landscape that so many initiatives like this one are trying to change.

All of the women surveyed agreed that more high school curriculum is needed in order to encourage girls to get into the technology field, and most (91%) believe added curriculum at the post-secondary level would help, too.

“We want to inspire and engage girls early on by showing them the opportunities and giving them the tools they need to pursue a future in technology,” says Betty DeVita, President, MasterCard Canada.

As another partner, the University of Waterloo will host a Python-language coding workshop for students who are in non-STEM disciplines. The educational institution cp_ girls learning codesays it will offer a “supportive and female-friendly” environment for the students, with the hopes that the program will encourage them to explore the field further.

Other partners include the Centre for Education in Math and Computing (CEMC) and the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, which will offer a free online teaching and learning resource starting next year. It will be accessible to anyone who wants to learn more about coding, and will be designed to both help students learn and support teachers.

Curriculum is important, but having a mentor is a large part of the equation as well. The Angus Reid study found that 85% of women believed mentorship by other woman would help encourage younger girls to pursue the technology field. Mentorship programs are a large part of many similar initiatives, like Google’s Made With Code and the Square Code Camp.

As a clever play on MasterCard’s well-known tagline, Mark Giesbrecht, Director of the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, called the program “truly priceless.” If it helps encourage more girls to enter the tech field, priceless it will be indeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *