News / Ottawa

Canada's cyber defence department throws support behind hackathon for young girls

A Hackergal event that will bring 2,500 young women together in December will receive a $50,000 grant from Canada's Communication Security Establishment.

Hackergal co-founders Ray Sharma and Lucy Ho speak about their upcoming hackathon, during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa.

Ryan Tumilty / Metro Order this photo

Hackergal co-founders Ray Sharma and Lucy Ho speak about their upcoming hackathon, during a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa.

Canada’s Communications Security Establishment plans to lend a hand next month at the country’s largest-ever hackathon, an event aimed to bring more young girls into math and computer engineering.

Hackergal, a non-profit that aims to bring more women into coding and development, is holding the hackathon at schools across the country for girls in Grades 6 to 9 across the country.

Ray Sharma, the group’s CEO said, 2,500 young women are set to take part in the event on Dec. 13. He said the country’s start-ups, major tech companies and governments all need more tech talent and it has to be more diverse.

“We have an issue because 95 per cent of the developers in this country are men,” he said.

He said while there are efforts at the high school level and in colleges, they believe women needed to be introduced to computing careers early to have any chance of attracting more into the industry.

“We need to influence girls at this level in order to really move the needle in a material way.”

CSE is Canada’s equivalent of the National Security Agency in the United States and does signal intelligence and cyber defence for Canada.

Shelly Bruce, a deputy minister for the department, said currently about 38 per cent of the department’s staff are women. She said she didn’t have a breakdown of those staff to show how many were in what kinds of jobs.

“We have a relatively good gender balance today all things considered, but we are committed to doing more,” she said.

The department is sponsoring the event with a $50,000 grant and some of its staff will attend hackathons in Ottawa. Bruce said while they can’t share too much about their work, they can talk about the industry.

“We can’t get into methods and techniques, we can get into the skills that we need.”

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