Celebrating Community at Hackergal’s 11th National Hackathon!

By Insights

We celebrated Hackergal’s 11th National Hackathon this year, inspiring over 700 girls and girl-identified learners across Canada to explore the endless possibilities in code through a week-long virtual event!

What is a Hackergal Hackathon? A Hackathon is an exciting event, typically lasting several hours, that brings computer programmers together to participate in a time-sensitive challenge. The Hackergal Hackathon captures this concept, inviting girls in grades 6-9 across Canada to code a visual story or interactive game connected to a social impact theme. By applying their learning and personal interests to the surprise theme, girls support and encourage each other, bringing their ideas and coding skills to the next level! Students coded projects using Hackergal’s customized coding curriculum on Hackergal Hub, our free online learning portal. We invited our Hackergals to code a project that reflects what community means to them and the small steps they can take to make a BIG change. Hackergal recognizes that having a sense of community embraces spirit, character, image and pride and is a vital element in helping us close the gender gap in technology. Even though coding is often considered a lone career,  learning to code is a collaborative effort; it connects people, facilitates shared learning, and can make you feel like you are part of something greater. This year’s Hackathon consisted of 6 virtual events which included a Hackathon Launch Party,  Hackergal’s famous Tech Trivia Adventure where girls put their technology knowledge to the test for a chance to win awesome prizes, and concluded with the Hackathon Project Party!

Kicking off our Hackathon was the Launch Party where we introduced this year’s theme and mission: Making BIG Change through Community. Hackergal Ambassador, Samia H., summed up what our Hackergal programs are all about: “The Hackergal community can be compared to a code: Components that come together to create a program”. The spirit of this quote was felt by the Hackergals across Canada, as the Hackathon went live in different school communities across the nation, including Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, B.C., Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Manitoba. Mrs. Garrioch, a grade 8 technology teacher at St. Mary’s School in Saskatchewan, led a coding club for 4 weeks with 4 girls in preparation for this year’s Hackathon. She also participated as a live community presenter during the Hackathon Launch Party, showcasing the excitement and hard work her students put into the Hackathon. Her girls got to share the amazing projects they created in coding, such as clean cooling and bus trackers. They were so proud to represent their province at the Hackergal Hackathon and called themselves the ‘Saskatchewan Hackergals’!

The Hackathon offered 3 live coding and design workshops for girls to choose from in English and French. Each of the coding workshops provided coding and design tips and tricks using free online tools to help girls make their projects as unique as possible! Stephanie Beeforth, a teacher from EJ James Public School in Ontario shared that the Sneaky Code Workshop really inspired the girls in her school and they were actively engrossed in all the activities.

Photo credit: @tanya_ottgrl

“Hackergal’s Hackathon has impacted me in a positive way. It has shown me that coding isn’t just letters or numbers but also helping others,” said Anna S., grade 7 Hackathon participant.

We heard from inspirational technology leaders like Melany Bailette, UX/Product Lead at Intelliware, and Isabelle Bisonnette, Vice President of Business Architecture in Technology Infrastructure and Innovation at CIBC, as they shared what it means to be a woman in the field of tech and how by building and participating in these communities, we can all help to break down barriers. Melany said, “A community is not only something that embraces who you are but supports you in your journey”. Hackergal not only offers the resources and programming to succeed in coding, but the community itself offers the support and friendship that is key to feeling included. Isabelle also discussed the importance of Hackergal’s mission in “balancing the job market” when it comes to gender equality.

The Hackathon brought together the idea of breaking barriers while also creating a positive and supportive community within the coding and tech world. Our girls were inspired by Canadian women in tech from notable industry leaders like CIBC, CSE, Google, Sago Mini, and Shaw.  Being together helps us to remember that you are never alone; you are part of a supportive and strong group of women and girls who cheer each other on!

Did you miss the Hackathon? No problem! You can still celebrate the inspirational week by watching some of our favourite moments. Stay tuned on social media for details about Hackergal Day taking place in December 2022, a virtual event you won’t want to miss!

Coding, Community, and Collaboration: Hackergal’s 11th National Hackathon is here!

By Insights

How would you define your values?  What do you believe is important? Do these values extend to your community? Should these values extend to your community?  As an organization that has been empowered by various communities across Canada, we value the importance of community and what makes each one special, because we know that we cannot change the world alone! Hackergal is on a mission to change the number of women who are pursuing STEAM and coding fields by creating a supportive community where anyone who identifies as a girl or woman can be empowered to be a creator or leader in technology! As Grace Hopper, one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, said “The most dangerous phrase in the human language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.”.  Hackergal is creating a movement for girls and girl-identified learners to be empowered through coding, community, and collaboration! 

Hackergal’s 11th National Hackathon brings together leaders in tech, student ambassadors, a passionate community of educators, and coding in an event that inspires girls to explore the endless possibilities in code!. With over 26,000 girls participating in previous Hackergal Hackathons, our 11th National Hackathon is creating BIG change in the STEAM community. Happening virtually, from May 25th-June 1st 2022,  our national Hackathon provides the opportunity for girls to come together, participate in coding webinars, and be inspired by women in tech trailblazers. Hearing from women in the industry like Julia Stoyko, a Software Engineer at Google provides girls with the opportunity to learn and aspire through participating in coding and graphic design webinars and interactive discussions. Girls have the opportunity to create friendships that go beyond the lines of code!

“The girls in our program are at that crucial age when they form personal narratives about their capabilities while making important decisions about their future. They are learning about problem-solving, critical thinking, and leadership skills as they are challenged to think about technology in new ways and be resilient in a supportive setting. These are the experiences that will set girls up for success and help them grow into Canada’s future tech champions.” Kumiko Imai, Director of Education at Hackergal

In our quest to close the gender gap in technology we know the most important thing to do is to start with our future generation of girls. It is imperative that we remove gender stereotypes to encourage girls to explore their full potential in STEAM starting at an early age.

Do you know any girls who would benefit from attending the Hackathon? Have them register now for  Hackergal’s 11th National Hackathon!

Breaking The Bias: Building A Community Through Code

By Insights

If you look at any of the descriptions of an engineer or mathematician or coder in modern social media, what would you see? Typically the answer has been a man with a hoodie typing away at a computer with a sticker of the Star Trek logo on the back. When there is a rare time that a woman is shown, she’s stereotypically cast “the nerd with glasses and the loner-type”. When we see this image on social media and television, it limits the aspirations of women and girls to want to become a part of the tech world. Girls deserve to see their identity and diversity shown and it’s time to change that narrative. 

International Women’s Day 2022 introduces the theme of “Break the Bias”, celebrating representation and education, especially in the technology field where, according to Stat Canada, only 23% of women are currently in STEM careers. Hackergal is helping to change this narrative by offering girls the ability to learn how to code and join a community of like-minded individuals. Hackathons, coding clubs, and online events are ways in which girls and young women can connect through personal stories and common interests.

Hackergal’s International Women’s Day Campaign features women in STEM positions providing the opportunity for girls to see themselves portrayed in positive and powerful platforms. This year, Hackergal is featuring 7 strong women in tech: Danielle Rainey, Alia Tayyeb, Azin Moinaddini, Shagun Maheshwari, Chikodili Odinakachukwu, Kishawna Peck, and Hackergal’s own Lucy Ho.

Creating communities where girls feel empowered and can relate to each other is the first step in making STEM and coding accessible to women all over the world. One way that we can help is to create supportive communities where girls and young women can share interests, struggles, and stories in safe spaces. Sharing our experiences as women in STEM helps to encourage others to continue to face challenges head-on and to work together as an empowering community. When we give women and girls the opportunity to connect, we amplify their voices in the technology world. When we celebrate women in STEM, we open opportunities for girls to aspire to enter the world of technology! 

As one of our featured women in tech, Shagun Maheshwari says,

“Female-focused communities have been precious as a support system when pursuing ventures in the tech industry. It’s extremely important for women to have a safe space where they can be open about the struggles and challenges they face and help one another out. I believe creating such communities is one of the most valuable things one can do to help one another and #BreakTheBias in the tech industry”.

The celebration of girls and women is not only for the month of March, #BreakTheBias is an everyday movement at Hackergal as we strive to remove gender barriers for girls and young women interested in tech. 

THERE IS POWER IN DIVERSITY – What This Means from Where I’m Standing

By Insights

“Diversity is not a quota  that needs to be met. To be truly diverse is recognizing and appreciating the differences within yourself and in society as a whole. True diversity starts with you.” 

Aisha Addo (CEO & Founder of DriveHER)

At the start of the year, I was given the task to suggest a theme for Hackergal’s fall programming. As the newest member to join the team, I wanted to make sure I would impress my team but I also wanted to choose something that meaningfully summed up the year we’ve collectively experienced. Keeping in mind Hackergal’s mission, and our main focus to inspire and teach girls the endless possibilities in code, I started my research. One thing that stood out to me in 2020 is that inequity is rife in society and we need to pay attention and adapt accordingly. In doing so, I created the theme “There is Power in Diversity! #RISE2020” (Reflect, Innovate, Share, and Encourage). 

Diversity in the technology industry has been a long standing conversation with many different voices and perspectives. In a field of predominantly white, male developers, the world of tech has a long way to go and each of us have a role to play in that journey. This theme was focused on collectively RISING to the challenge to advocate for a diverse and equitable technology landscape for our future leaders.

What does this mean and why is there power in diversity? 

The Cambridge Dictionary provides two different definitions to the word diversity. The first one is “the fact of many different types of things or people being included in something” and the second one is “the fact that there are many different ideas or opinions about something.” I find this fascinating, as these two definitions really highlight why diversity is not only something we should aim for just because it’s cool or the latest trend, but it’s actually a very powerful tool to unleash the potential of teams, of individuals, and of society. A team that welcomes and encourages different opinions and ideas is way more likely to innovate, disrupt the market and be successful. Imagine what this world would look like!

Another powerful definition is from an American University that talks about acceptance and respect. According to them, diversity is about understanding that every individual is unique, appreciating our individual differences and celebrating the cultural enrichment diversity brings in. They don’t refer only to gender diversity, but also to other dimensions, like race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities and any beliefs or ideologies including religious and political. This truly resonates with me.

Why is there power in diversity? 

I believe that diversity is a requirement across all industries for the future. The growing diversity in science and engineering is our strength and given the global challenges we face today, we need all the mental muscle power we can get. If scientists and engineers continue to be at the forefront of innovation, they also must fully embrace the growing understanding of the power of diversity. Not only is diversity morally important, it also leads to better outcomes. The National Center for Women & Information Technology conducted a study of 2,360 communities in multiple industries and found that “companies with women on their executive boards outperformed companies with all-male executive boards. Gender-diverse management teams showed superior returns on equity, debt/equity ratios, price/equity ratios, and average growth.” Women improved both productivity and team dynamics.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing the way we receive information, how we process it, how we work and what jobs we will do. It is happening at an unprecedented pace. Because of this, we simply cannot afford to have any less than our whole population engaged and contributing.  Some of the answers are out there: give girls role models, teach them the skills they will need, encourage them, and show them that technology careers will help change the world for the better. By 2030, women can and will be critical to leveraging this revolution for the benefit of our global society. The more diverse your environment, the more creative and evolved are the products that come from it. 

So this is my personal invitation for you to join our community and Reflect, Innovate, Share, and Encourage (RISE)  together to bring more gender diversity to the tech sector! There’s so much more to be done and we have a long way to go.

Join Hackergal on Saturday December 12th, 2020 for our final celebration of our Fall programming theme: There is Power in Diversity and RISE with us as we advocate for a diverse and equitable technology landscape.

We’ve got this! (Sign up here)

As the great writer and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, once said “In diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”.

Computer Science – languages, creativity and endless possibilities

By Insights

Hello! My name is Melanie and I work at the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in the Canadian Center for Cyber Security (CCCS), where I am the Acting Director of Cryptographic Security and Systems Development. What does that mean? I work on some complex challenges relating to keys, codes and classified information with a team of very talented people. How did I get to where I am today? Perseverance, curiosity, a desire to solve problems and relentless optimism. That, and help from many amazing people.

Here’s a bit about me: I grew up in a super small village in New Brunswick. I wasn’t popular; I was sensitive, and pretty nerdy. I loved to learn and was curious about how things worked! I also really enjoyed singing, playing piano, drama class, math/science (solving puzzles) and playing sports! Honestly, I just kind of fell into computer science and I am really glad that I did. With my music experience, I considered going into classical singing in university but I decided to study computer science because I was good at math and I knew that I would probably be able to get a good job and support myself once I obtained my degree. Getting my degree was a challenge, but I learned a lot about myself, met some amazing people and gained a lot of valuable experience through a student program, which led me to CSE! In my career I’ve travelled the world, participated in lots of working groups, led IT innovation events and have even had the opportunity to work and live in the United States as a technical liaison for CSE.

I’m sure this is no surprise, but there are just not enough girls and women in IT right now. We need you because of your uniqueness! What I loved about studying computer science was expanding my mind; I learned to work through challenges and gained confidence in my abilities by asking questions and being curious about how things worked. I realized that I could be bold and contribute to group discussions, because I often brought up viewpoints that my male colleagues had not considered. I learned a lot by interacting with some super fun people, and unleashed my creativity through various activities and group assignments – everything from drawing system mockups to figuring out technology required for a fresh food delivery service (trust me, it was a new and exciting initiative back in 2002!). Sure, there were hard times and tough concepts that took me extra effort to master, but it was worth it as my career has taken me to places that I never imagined!

What I have learned is that communication, curiosity, playing with technology, asking for help, and developing friendships can help take you very far in life. I honestly believe that a career in STEM/cyber security, including computer science, is something that anyone can do. You will continuously learn as technology evolves. The concepts you will learn in this type of program can be applied to things like setting up your own home network, building an app to help you with a hobby, writing stories, analyzing how to tackle a problem and even how to speak other languages. As a former professional opera singer and music teacher who has learned French and Italian, the fundamental computer science concepts that I learned in my degree (programming languages, algorithms, logic) has helped me be a better performer and human, a more well-rounded individual. Technology underpins not only software companies, social media organizations and cyber security firms, but also online music stores, fashion design software, television and animated programs, health care, sports, teaching and more. The opportunities in this field are literally endless.

So why is it so important to understand computer science today? Well, did you know that computer science is one of the foundations of cyber security? I am going to guess that most of you probably have a computer, phone, tablet, video game console, or smart TV. Most of us use the internet all the time for a variety of reasons. We use it to have video chats with our friends and family, play games and look up how to make epic Halloween costumes! Also, because of COVID, many of us have shifted to learning virtually online, or working from home. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that we’re safe when we interact online.

Why do we have to be so careful? The cyber threats out there are real – I hear all about them every single day in my job. The reality is, there are people out there with bad intentions who take advantage of fast changing technology and people with low cyber security awareness. The global nature of the Internet allows these bad people to be physically located anywhere in the world and they can still affect Canadian systems. Cyber security is a shared responsibility and a team sport! It is only by working together that we can ensure Canadians stay safe – all of you included! There are some excellent resources out there to help you. I recommend checking out the GetCyberSafe website for all kinds of information on how to secure your devices, keep your apps up to date and learn why it is SO important to use unique passwords. Think about what someone could do to your life or reputation if they guessed one of your passwords and could suddenly get into all your devices, social media accounts or your email – yikes! Be creative and think like a bad guy for a few minutes… it’s rather scary what could be done. I challenge you to counter that fear by learning how to protect yourself and helping to educate others who may not have as much experience on the internet. You can also test your cyber security knowledge by taking the Get Cyber Safe Checkup!

Last thing I want to share with you is a two-part challenge. First, will you think about pursuing a career in computer science and how that could impact your life and help the lives of the people around you? It is important for females from all backgrounds to consider this and to look at how we can better contribute to IT advances in the future. Think about how you could channel your passions or things that you love to do into a career in IT. Second, we also need to be good cybersecurity ambassadors for our families and friends, especially with those who might not be as familiar with technology. Do you perhaps have a grandparent who’s new to using the internet? Help educate and empower them on good cyber security practices. Print off the resource guide for seniors available on the Get Cyber Safe website and talk to your family about good cyber hygiene. We can all do our part!


Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, I am always looking for new people to mentor and chat with. You can reach out to me anytime on Twitter, @mellyanderson.

Today is International Day of the Girl! Let’s Use Our Voices.

By Insights

“There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a third power stronger than both, that of women.”- Malala Yousafzai


We’re all about a holiday that represents girls and women across the globe to honor them in one way or another. Today is International Day of the Girl. This day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face while promoting empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights”. The theme this year is “My Voice, Our Equal Future” represents an opportunity to reimagine a world shaped by the voice, vision, and solutions of girls to drive progress towards a gender-equal world.  

Here’s a picture of what an equal future could look like: 

Families no longer preferring sons over daughters and putting an end to sex-selective abortion and female infanticide

Saving 140 million girls

Every girl, in every corner of this earth having access to an education

Investing in 130 million girls

Child marriage no longer being remotely possible

Preserving the childhood of 12 million girls per year

Every girl living free and fearless from violence like female genital mutilation and forced sex

Fulfilling the human rights of every living girl

A world that champions girls to be the world-changers they were created to be.

Producing a generation of young leaders shifting history

In 2020, the global pandemic has aggravated the already daunting challenges girls and young women face every day. And yet, girls are at the forefront of movements for change, boldly demanding actions to protect and strengthen future generations. Hackergal is on a mission to empower girls to use their voices, inspire others, and tell their stories through the power of technology and code.  Over the past five years, Hackergal’s programs have exposed over 20,000 girls across Canada to computer science and the opportunities in code. We continue to reach more girls through our mission, providing opportunities for girls to be educated and engaged with technology. This is how we are striving for our equal future.


In celebration of International Day of the Girl, we’re urging you to use your voice and get involved by supporting organizations that empower girls and women across the globe. If your money and free time is too sparse right now, no worries! Social media reaches a ton of people and it takes zero dollars and little time to post this (or any) article sharing this special day. Incorporate the conversation into your real-life interactions too, by advocating for girls with your friends, family, and colleagues.

To learn more about how you can support Hackergal’s mission, click here.

How educators are inspiring girls to code

By Insights

Just a few days after #InternationalWomensDay2020, topics like the gender gap, women in tech, and equal pay are taking over our social feeds and we are so excited to see more of these conversations popping up. After all, we are acutely aware that more women are needed in tech spaces, and we have the stats to back it up. 

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To All the Giants, Whose Shoulders We Stand On

By Insights

By Jennifer Takács

What is gratitude? Harvard Health Publishing defines gratitude as “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.” I was recently reminded of the power of gratitude during Derek Tangredi’s keynote speech at the Bring IT Together Conference in Niagara Falls. After listening to his transformative experiences at Wilfred Jury Public School, I was inspired to reflect on the benefits of gratitude in my own life.

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What I learned by “being bad at technology”

By Insights

By Cassie Tatone

I am one of those self-proclaimed people who are “bad at tech”. My younger brother was always the one who managed setting up a movie on the TV or to reboot the internet when it broke. I never installed the newest IOS, only updating when I bought a new phone that came with the newest system or really wanted to use some of the new Emojis I was seeing around. If I couldn’t get the printer to work, or if I accidentally switched modes on my computer and needed help, I would blame “being bad at tech” as the culprit.
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My Letter to a Girl Who Thinks She Can’t Code…

By Insights

A blog feature written by Olivia Xiao, a Hackergal participant and passionate coding enthusiast!

Today it is not unusual for people to hear about exciting breakthroughs in technology and big developments in the future of mankind. Often, it’s a new function for phones or another rocket launched by Elon Musk, and behind most of those advancements, one can often sense intrigue, tremendous effort, and fantastic programming skills. The accomplishments of experienced coders, often showcased on the news or through social media, have always seemed nothing short of extraordinary to me, as someone who knew nothing about coding at the time. These new developments happening right beneath our eyes are in some ways veiled from us, and their powers exclusively reserved to those who are well versed in the art of coding.

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