Transitioning into online education
As classroom doors across the province remain closed due to the pandemic, the unpredictable future of online educated proves to be a difficult transition for many Canadian families. The non-profit organization, hEr VOLUTION, is taking measures to ensure that female students in Ontario obtain the education they deserve in STEM through services and technology donations.
Based in Toronto, hEr VOLUTION is an award-winning, non-profit organization that inspires young women to embrace STEM-based careers. The organization provides STEM services, mentorship and access to technology for girls grades 1-12 in underserved communities.
On April. 21 hEr VOLUTION announced its partnership with Alexio Corporation, a top Canadian cybersecurity management firm. It will donate $25 from each sale of their new Defender Easy Start for Small Business package. The donations will raise funds for more access to technology, internet at home, and STEM education. These assets are now more critical than ever for girls from low-income households.
The gender gap in STEM education
Marginalized and low-income families are facing even greater barriers to equitable access to education than before. According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 4 high school-aged girls don’t have technology required for online schooling at home. The lack of access is resulting in more young women not obtaining proper education during this time.
Young girls in Canada already face disadvantages in STEM programs because of society’s view of who belongs in the profession. The disparity in access to required technology for learning increases concerns about gender divides in STEM.
Women are significantly underrepresented in pursuing STEM university programs and careers. In 2010, Canadian women made up 44% of first-year STEM students in undergraduate degree programs. Women’s representation is lowest in the engineering and computer science fields. According to Engineers Canada, women make up 22 percent of engineering undergraduates. In mechanical, software, and computer engineering, women comprise about 14 percent of students.
According to the NSERC, early engagement (before high school) is crucial in guiding girls into STEM careers. In surveying students in grades 7 -9, they found that girls engaged in activities such as science fairs, competitions, and engineering summer camps were 2.7 times more likely to consider a STEM career.
Mentorship starts early for women in STEM
Organizations like hEr VOLUTION are necessary for increasing gender diversity in the tech sector by creating opportunities for the next generation of women in STEM and promoting stakeholder involvement in support of STEM education in Canada.
Now the organization is preparing for its annual STEMing UP program. This 4-week summer course prepares 14–17 years old girls for a career in tech through lessons on coding and problem-solving. The camp collaborates with Ontario technology leaders like Shopify, to equip young women with the confidence, skills, professional portfolios, and networks to pursue fulfilling careers in the STEM industries.
In last week’s Women Talk Tech podcast, Dr. Stefanie Chiras, the Vice President and General Manager of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux Business, recounts her experience in high school, and how early mentorship gave her the confidence to pursue a STEM career. The push she received from teachers to advance in engineering resulted in a Bachelor of Science degree from Harvard University.
Earlier this year, the Women Talk Tech 2020 Action plan, reported that mentorship can help women gain more confidence in their skills and develop effective approaches to dealing with workplace challenges. Through mentorship initiatives like hEr VOLUTION, empowerment of the next generation of women in tech can begin early.