by Jessica Kabigting | Photo credits: TecHKU | 6 November 2014
In recent months, there has been a growing discussion on the gender gap in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. Just last summer, Silicon Valley companies disclosed employee demographics, and the numbers showed that women indeed were grossly underrepresented. For instance, only 15% of Facebook’s technical employees are women.
The rationale behind this is that over the years, males have significantly outnumbered females when it came to having university degrees in computer science and engineering.
To address this, various tech giants like Google and Intel, as well as big universities, have been taking steps to boost women’s standing in computer science and the tech sector. TecHKU, as the incubator of tech-related initiatives at HKU, is following suit.
Girls4Tech @HKU 2014
Last September 13, a one-day workshop called Girls4Tech was held on campus. The aim of this initiative was to expose secondary school girls to coding and its potential uses, and to spur interest in pursuing computer science and related fields. The event was jointly organized by TecHKU and First Code Academy, a school that nurtures future tech leaders by teaching children how to code even at an early age. Girls4Tech was also held in partnership with the HKU Faculty of Engineering, the Computer Science Association, ENS, HKUSU and The Women’s Foundation.
Fifty girls from various secondary schools across Hong Kong solved logic puzzles and decrypted messages as a warm up before the afternoon’s coding session. AppInventor, an open-source web application developed by MIT, was used to introduce basic concepts such as if-else statements and loops. With AppInventor, participants were able to create simple Android apps in under 3 hours.
Ms. Joey Lam and Ms. Michelle Sun, both established figures in the field of technology, were the keynote speakers.
Ms. Joey Lam is the Deputy Government Chief Information Officer (Policy and Community) of the HKSAR government. She is an advocate of ICT development in Hong Kong, open data and women in tech.
Ms. Michelle Sun, on the other hand, is a former investment banker from Goldman Sachs who eventually decided to pursue tech entrepreneurship. After working at startups like Bump Technologies and Buffer, she decided to establish First Code Academy with the aim of empowering the youth to become creators of technology. She and her team led the afternoon coding workshop for the participants.
“We are thinking of making this an annual event,” said Disha Jain, a Year 3 Electronics and Communications Engineering Student who was part of the event’s organizing team. This will allow more young girls to experience coding and will encourage them to pursue computer science and related programs. This is definitely something to watch out for!
Visit the Girls4Tech Facebook page to see more photos from the day.