September 19, 2014

Lack of encouragement a barrier to girls pursuing a career in science, math, new study suggests

TORONTO-- MasterCard is launching a national campaign to bring more girls and women into the tech field. In partnership with Ladies Learning Code , the cross-country program will see more than 700 girls (ages 8 to 13) and their parents take a free, six-hour introductory coding class, held simultaneously across the country November 8th.

The University of Waterloo , another partner, will also participate by hosting a Python-language coding workshop aimed at students who are in non-STEM disciplines in an effort to introduce a variety of students to coding in a supportive and female-friendly environment. In addition, MasterCard is working with the Centre for Education in Math and Computing (CEMC) and the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo to introduce a first-of-its-kind free online teaching and learning resource in 2015 that will be open to everyone. The courseware is designed to help students learn to program and support teachers in their daily classroom work.

“The new school year brings unlimited possibilities for students and we’re excited to share our passion for technology with girls across the country,” said Betty DeVita, President, MasterCard Canada. “The reality is the tech field is still male dominated, but it’s important to bring more women in because they offer a different perspective on the development of technology. With this campaign, we want to inspire and engage girls early on by showing them the potential opportunities and giving them the tools they need to pursue a future in technology.”

The recent research findings from MasterCard found that:

  • Out of the Canadians that considered a career in technology, only 18 per cent were women.

  • And for those that didn’t choose this career path, one third of women (29 per cent) stated that it was because they didn’t think they had the skillset to get into it or weren’t encouraged (11 per cent) to develop skills in science and math.

  • More than half of women surveyed (57 per cent) expressed no interest in pursuing a job in the tech industry, which is a fast-growing industry in Canada   offering higher salaries.

    • Median wages and salaries (gross wages and salaries before deduction for employees working full year, full time in 2010) were $53,200 for women in STEM occupations versus $50,200 for women in non-STEM occupations ( StatsCan )

  • When asked what Canadians think are the major barriers for women to start a career in technology, one third of respondents (32 per cent) agreed that girls are encouraged to pursue other fields.

  • So what do Canadians think are the most important areas in encouraging girls to get into the tech field? Most Canadians said that more curriculum at the high school level (87 per cent) and post-secondary level (83 per cent) as well as mentorship by other women (87 per cent) are all important.

“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,” said Melissa Crnic, Co-Executive Director, Ladies Learning Code. “We’re excited to roll out an easy-to-learn program with in-person sessions across Canada as well as online and spark girls’ interests in fields that they may not have even been aware of.”

MasterCard is addressing this gap by identifying National Girls Learning Code Day as an opportunity for girls and women to learn how a coding and developer skillset provides unlimited opportunities in today’s digital economy.

For those unable to attend the in-person sessions, Ladies Learning Code will also host an online pre-recorded workshop accessible via their website. Parents and young Canadians should visit for more details.

"With the help of MasterCard, the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science is able to continue encouraging young women to participate in initiatives like the National Girls Learning Code Day and gain experience through online computer science courseware,” said  Mark Giesbrecht, Director, David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo. “Online learning resources like these can help attract young women into computing, help overcome gender bias and imbalance, and can provide a compelling entrée into this field."

  Women are underrepresented in the technology field in Canada:

  • Women comprise only 39 per cent of STEM ( science , technology , engineering , and mathematics ) graduates in Canada ( StatsCan )

  • Among STEM graduates aged 25 to 34, women accounted for 59 per cent of those in science and technology programs, but accounted for 23 per cent of those who graduated from engineering and 30 per cent of those who graduated from mathematics and computer science programs. ( StatsCan )

  • Although the rate of first-year students at the University of Waterloo’s prestigious Computer Science program has been steadily increasing over the years, the 2012/13 class saw only  16 per cent of female students enrolled (University of Waterloo)

MasterCard launched MasterCard N>XT , the first payment network hackathon in 2013. It hosted more than 100 developers over 48 hours, but less than a quarter of the participants were female. National Girls Learning Code Day is an opportunity for MasterCard to provide the support and resources to girls and women so that future events feature more diverse representation.  The 2014 MasterCard N>XT Developer Challenge is now accepting teams for its October 4 and 5 event at MaRS Discovery District. The event is a chance for all coders, men and women alike, to demonstrate their expertise and show future students how rewarding a career in this field can be. For more information about this year’s developer challenge, and for teams to register, click here .




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