Program provides girls a boost in tech-intensive fields

St. Margaret’s hosting ievent to promote digital literacy and teach web design to girls between the ages of eight and 13

This Saturday is National Girls Learning Code Day, and to celebrate, St. Margaret’s is hosting its fourth event to promote digital literacy and teach web design to girls between the ages of eight and 13.

Last year, the private school partnered with Ladies Learning Code – a national not-for-profit offering beginner-friendly tech education – to provide girls an opportunity to learn such coding languages as HTML and CSS.

“It seemed like a perfect fit between the school and our goals in educating girls, especially around STEM [science, technology, engineering and math], to be able to provide more opportunities to our students and students in our community,” said Jennifer van Hardenberg, communications co-ordinator for St. Margaret’s.

The workshops have seen much success in the last 12 months, both at St. Margaret’s and across the country. More than 650 girls, each accompanied by a parent or guardian, are expected to participate this Saturday at workshops in 28 Canadian cities.

“They’ve all been sellout events – last time, unfortunately, we had a few girls stuck on a wait list,” said van Hardenberg. “But this time, we’ve been able to find more volunteers and mentors.”

The six-hour workshops will see parent-child pairs learn and collaborate together to build a simple website from scratch using Mozilla Thimble, an easy-to-use online code editor.

Van Hardenberg said events like Girls Learning Code Day may spark girls’ interests in working in STEM fields, something that has seen a steady push in recent years.

“These are traditionally male-dominated fields, but I think there’s a growing interest being able to equalize that,” she said. “I think that’s led to this shift in focus to really invest a lot and encourage women to make up that ground.

“It’s a really wonderful introduction – they just have a really unassuming, very approachable way of dealing with these topics,” she added. “The enthusiasm at these events is really, really high, and it’s great to see how proud the girls are at the end of the day.”

As of press deadline, the St. Margaret’s event had 11 spots available, with additional availability at a similar event at UVic. St. Margaret’s is located at 1080 Lucas Ave. while the UVic event is at the university’s engineering and computer science building at 3800 Finnerty Rd.



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