Within the digital literacy movement, much of the narrative around cultivating national economic prosperity through coding education revolves around youth. Specifically, the importance of equipping young people with the digital skills they will need to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow.
While young people are an important and worthy focus in our national conversation on innovation, on International Women’s Day, I’m compelled to remind my fellow Canadians of another group who have been overlooked but are critical in shaping Canada’s economic landscape: women.
Despite being early leaders in the field of computing — and developers of the technology upon which many of our modern innovations have been built — women today face dismal odds in the very same sectors they once pioneered.
Women currently hold less than 25% of all technology roles in Canada (and research suggests the gap is only getting worse). And those that do make it into the industry to become members of that 25% are often faced with sexism and unwelcome work environments that push them out.
Unfortunately, most women were never afforded the opportunity to build a career in technology and are holding jobs that are some of the lowest paid in the country and also at the highest risk of being affected by automation.
As a woman and as the CEO of a national digital literacy organization, I find myself particularly frustrated by these realities because I have come to better understand, both on a personal level and through research, the extraordinary economic, intellectual, and social power that women represent.
Women are key decision-makers in Canadian households. They have a pivotal role in helping spark early interest in computing for their kids – especially their young daughters by encouraging them to play with technology and embrace failure.
Women also represent the highest proportion of teachers in our schools and have a huge opportunity to inspire and sustain girls’ interest in technology by engaging them in relevant solutions-based projects in the classroom.
Finally, women are strong mentors and their presence in the tech sector has been found to positively influence girls’ decisions to pursue studies in computer science.
For all of these reasons and more, we must keep women at the forefront of the digital literacy movement. We must continue to provide meaningful learning opportunities, build and foster safe and collaborative learning and working environments and celebrate the women who inspire and lead the way for the next generation.
Because by lifting up Canadian women, we will lift up our country, too.