Hackergal is Planning the Largest Canadian Hackathon Ever

Good things happen when you give young kids the resources to learn and excel in STEM fields.

Hackergal has taken note with plans to organize the largest hackathon ever held in Canada, inviting more than 2,000 girls in grades six through nine to participate in an event on December 13 this year. The Toronto-based Hackergal was created in 2015 with the mission to introduce middle-school girls to coding through various hackathons.

There are over 40 schools already committed to participate, but there is still room for new schools to take part. Any interested school, teacher or parent can head here to check out more information. Entire schools can participate, or just one classroom.

There has been increasing discussion in the technology field regarding the huge gender imbalance. Many know that excellence in STEM fields fuels a strong economy, yet while there will be close to a million and a half jobs in computing, only three per cent of those will be held by women.

“Diversity in coding is an important issue for innovation within society,” said Ray Sharma, founder of Hackergal. Sharma is also the CEO and founder of Extreme Venture Partners.

“This is not just an issue of fairness, it’s more significant, its an issue about the evolution of software. Presently, we are missing out on the female dynamic when it comes to computer science. And this is to the detriment of us all.”

Hackergal is on a mission to expose as many young women as possible to coding and computer science through hackathons, and the latest one planned will be the not-for-profit’s largest ever. The organization’s plug-and-play approach makes it possible for any teacher to conduct a hackathon even without previous coding experience.

The hackathons work by organizing girls into teams of two or three who are then tasked to create a solution to a problem through coding. In the weeks prior to the actual hackathon, educators take the students through Python lessons to prepare. Online access to the platform is also provided so parents can track the process at home.

“Hackergal emerged out of a desire to empower and engage young girls to explore the possibilities of computer science in a fun and positive way,” said Lucy Ho, co-founder and managing director of Hackergal. “Our hackathons are designed to light a spark in girls at an early age when they are most impressionable and it counts.”

Events like this upcoming one from Hackergal are important if the technology sector wants to continue its current trends towards fixing a very visible gender bias. Studies from Booking.comDeloitte, and #movethedial have recently pointed out that women are still vastly underrepresented in both tech and non-tech roles within the field. Trends are moving in the right direction, but Hackergal wants to do its part and speed up the transition.