We’re taking our partnership with the Canadian non-profit organization to the next level in 2024 to help disrupt tech’s gender imbalance.
In tech, there’s a lot of talk about disrupting spaces and industries, but what does that really mean? For us, it means going beyond simply investing in the next startup success story or offering innovative products and services. It means helping to tackle the big problems—the ones with systemic roots that can’t be disrupted with a new app or clever code.
It means disrupting the gender imbalance that still plagues sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and pushing toward a future that sees more women in these fields. It’s a huge task, and one we can’t tackle alone, which is why we’re proud to partner with Toronto-based nonprofit that aims to inspire and prepare girls and women across Canada to explore opportunities in code.
It’s also important to note Hackergal uses “girls” and “women” as inclusive terms. According to their inclusivity statement, “Hackergal is committed to diversity and inclusion. We use an inclusive definition of ‘girls’ and ‘women’ and welcome the participation of all learners who identify as girls. This includes trans girls because we recognize trans girls are girls. We also welcome the participation of gender-fluid, non-binary, and two-spirit learners.”
“It changes slightly depending on what source you use, but generally, the rate of women’s participation in STEM (science, tech, engineering, and mathematics) is around 23 to 25 per cent,” says Hackergal interim director Rebecca Hazell. “That statistic hasn’t changed in 30 years. It’s persistent, which makes it clear not only how little women are represented, but that many of the efforts to change that don’t approach the problem in the right way.”
She says that while learning practical tech skills and applications are important, a missing ingredient is teaching girls confidence in STEM at young ages—as early as grades six to nine, which is when Hackergal begins delivery of its programs.
Those include annual hackathons that bring girls in grades six to nine together to code with joint purpose, a free online learning portal girls can access from home that boasts over 60 hours of course content in both French and English, curriculums for educators, coding clubs, two $5,000 scholarships per year, and an ambassador program that gives girls access to mentors in the field.
In 2024, RBCx and Hackergal will add to that list with a new partnership. It will include an RBCx contribution towards the existing mentorship program, further sponsorship of scholarships, and additional RBCx mentor meetups for girls in grades 11 and 12 with a special focus on how to build on a professional portfolio.
In July, we hosted the inaugural RBCx and Hackergal Scholarship event at RBC Waterpark Place, where the 2023 winners, Aruthy Sriketharan of Mississauga Secondary School in Mississauga, ON, and Lakshmi Muralidhar of Bramalea Secondary School in Brampton, ON, were announced.
The event featured remarks and insights by Head of RBCx Sid Paquette, Hazell, and Hackergal ambassador program manager Kylie Rafter, as well as RBCx head of marketing and growth Nicole Kelly and senior growth marketing manager Gabriella Popescu.
“When RBCx started, we really had one mission and that was to power bold. That’s powering bold entrepreneurs and bold companies, but ultimately it’s about bold individuals.”
“When RBCx started, we really had one mission and that was to power bold. That’s powering bold entrepreneurs and bold companies, but ultimately it’s about bold individuals,” said Paquette. “What Hackergal does is exactly that. You are going to change the world.”
“We are changing the face of computer science. I can say that with confidence one learner at a time,” said Hazell. “But the best proof of our program’s effectiveness truly is our scholars who are here today, who have both demonstrated their passion and persistence in the STEM field throughout high school and are committed to creating positive change within their communities and within the STEM industry. They lead by example.”
“Increasing different perspectives at the table will help us all long term.”
While Hackergal’s programs undoubtedly help propel girls and women forward in their careers, their benefits extend far beyond personal journeys to society at large. “Increasing different perspectives at the table will help all of us long term,” Hazell tells us in an exclusive interview. “It will make sure that solutions we develop in STEM are relevant, effective, and applicable on a large scale.”
There is no quick fix to the lack of gender parity in tech, but both RBCx and Hackergal are committed to fostering a future industry that looks very different from the one today. In Hazell’s words, “We need to make sure that we have all of the ideas on the table and not just the same ideas that we’ve had for ages.”
RBCx offers support to startups in all stages of growth, backing some of Canada’s most daring tech companies and idea generators. We turn our experience, networks, and capital into your competitive advantage to help you scale and make a meaningful impact on the world. Speak with an RBCx Advisor to learn more about how we can help your business grow.
If you would like to learn more about Hackergal’s impact and further support its mission, please visit their website at hackergal.org