Monday, July 26, 2021

    Brandon Sweet
    University Communications

    Technovation Girls Waterloo takes aim at gender gap in tech

    A group photo of participants in the Technovation Girls Waterloo event.

    By Jon Parsons. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.

    The Toronto-Waterloo innovation corridor employs more than 200,000 tech workers. As home to tens of thousands of tech companies and startups, the region is sometimes called Canada’s Silicon Valley. The corridor contributes some 17 per cent to Canada’s GDP. 

    Yet, for all the advancement on the tech and business side, the industry’s social development lacks in one key area: the gender gap. 

    According to research by the think tank Women in Communications and Technology, women make up only 21.4 per cent of tech-related jobs in the Canadian information, communications and technology sector. A McKinsey & Co. report suggests that it will take 140 years for women to achieve parity in Canadian scientific and technological fields. 

    But a global app development program and contest, Technovation Girls, is shaking things up in the tech industry, and some of this year’s top teams are from the Waterloo region. Six regional teams made it to the semi-finals.

    “The tech industry is yet to see gender equity in representation of female, non-binary and trans people,” said Rae Samuel, chapter ambassador for Technovation Girls Waterloo. “It’s not easy to just walk into a computer science program. So, we try to work with students when they’re younger, particularly in middle school. The point is to foster interest and hopefully encourage them to continue to explore coding and technology.” 

    Along with the students and the chapter ambassadors, the program depends on sponsors to make it all happen. Locally based companies including Shopify, Terminal and D2L provide funding, equipment, coaches, mentors and contest judges. 

    The Women in Computer Science (WiCS) committee at the University of Waterloo, where Samuel is an outreach coordinator, spearheads the Waterloo Chapter of Technovation Girls. Tech giants Google, Facebook and Amazon, among others, are funders of WiCS. 

    “It really does take a village to run this program,” Samuel said. 

    Semi-finalist teams coding for social good 

    Teams in Technovation Girls make apps that address a specific social need. As part of the program, students learn about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), promoted by the United Nations. SDGs have categories for human health and well-being, climate action, poverty reduction and gender equality. 

    “I like how holistic is it,” said Ellen Brisley, a 16-year-old Technovation participant whose team reached the semi-final for their app AIUTO. “It’s not just about the coding, and that’s what differentiates it from a hackathon. You’re not making an app for no reason. You have a purpose, and you can see how you can impact your community.” 

    AIUTO connects donors directly with charities, intending to create stronger relationships in the not-for-profit and NGO sectors. The name AIUTO means ‘help’ in Italian. 

    “We talked to the Red Cross women’s crisis services, the YMCA, and we talked to the retirement homes,” Brisley said. “We did surveys in the community to understand what organizations are doing. We put effort into understanding the problem because you can’t solve something you don’t understand. So, it was the need that drove the development of AIUTO.” 

    Other semi-final teams from the region created apps that likewise engage with significant issues of concern. 

    Evva Morrissey and her semi-finalist team in the junior division created an app called No Limits, specifically to address issues of accessibility for people with disabilities.  

    “We thought of all the places that if we were in a wheelchair, if we had a guide dog, or if we were blind, all the places we could or couldn’t go,” said Morrissey. “Our app shows maps with markers for places, showing accessible places that people can go. The app lets you search in your community, and if you come across places that aren’t in the app, you can add them.” 

    Asked how she got interested in coding and technology, Morrissey said it was primarily due to her exposure to the Technovation program, which she learned about through a presentation at her school. 

    “When I saw Technovation, I just decided to give it a try and see. Now I enjoy coding a lot more, especially knowing all the things you can do with it.” 

    Nicole Kremer is another Technovation participant whose love of coding and technology grew from her work in the program. Kremer, at age 12, is among the youngest semi-finalists from the region. 

    She says that once she learned about Technovation, it was something she felt compelled to do. Her team, called BTF (Building the Future), created an app especially for sick kids and kids in hospitals. 

    “Lots of kids feel isolated when they’re sick,” Kremer said. “Sick kids can have trouble making friends and can feel alone. The app helps sick kids connect with other kids from all over the world.” 

    Asked about the next steps for the app, Kremer said the idea is to take the “concept app” from Technovation and “make this a live app, so it is accessible to kids who are in hospitals or even clinics if they have to get check-ups.” 

    The teams in Technovation Girls submit their app to judges and create a demo video to promote their work. In the senior division of the program, participants also need to submit a complete business plan.  

    Team Hustle, another of the region’s semi-finalist teams in the senior category, took some four months from conceiving the idea for their app until it was complete. Then they also created the promotional videos and the business plan, which included proposals for financing, marketing, and ultimately for scaling up the app to a national or international audience.  

    “Our team’s name came from the hustle mindset,” said Paige Gugeler. “If you want a change in the world, you have to hustle and do it yourself. That’s part of our motivation. To hustle and make a change.” 

    Ramandeep Saini, the second member of the Team Hustle duo, also said that her motivation is to make a positive change in the world. That’s why the team set out to create an app to address one of the most significant issues facing young people today, mental health.  

    “We noticed the way that so many people in our age group were struggling with their mental health because of the pandemic,” said Saini. “We knew we had an opportunity to do something about it, and we wanted to see if we could help resolve the mental health issue, even in our small way.” 

    The result of Gugeler and Saini’s work is the Harmony App, which provides youth with specific mental health resources, self-care tips and motivates people to take care of themselves and their mental health. 

    From Technovation to the startup, the boardroom and beyond 

    For participants, the program fosters a desire to continue in tech and business, and this is precisely how Technovation Girls is pushing back against the gender gap in the tech industry.  

    Saini, for example, expressed a specific interest in startup culture and even in founding a startup one day. Brisley echoed this entrepreneurial spirit, saying that her goals are to “go into software engineering, maybe work at a startup, or just throw myself into that tech world.” 

    Other participants, like Gugeler, are a little more interested in the “business side of things,” but especially business for social good and a “business that’s focused on technologies that help people.” 

    This same motivation to work with technology and business in a way that contributes to the betterment of society is something even younger participants like Morrissey and Kremer take to heart – they both expressed a desire to work with technology and coding to help people. 

    This orientation to technology and entrepreneurship as a force for change certainly bodes well for the tech industry’s future in Canada and beyond. It cannot help but encourage more gender equity among those pursuing careers in scientific and technological fields. 

    Technovation Girls announces the overall winners at a global digital summit, August 12-13. 

    Kathy Hogarth joining Laurier as Dean of Faculty of Social Work

    Professor Kathy Hogarth.Renison University College Professor Kathy Hogarth has been named the next Dean of the Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University.

    “Kathy has been a respected faculty member, colleague, and instructor in the School of Social Work at Renison since 2011,” says an announcement on Renison’s website. “She has been an asset to Renison, serving on a variety of committees and task forces, where she has shared her vast knowledge and expertise liberally. Most recently, Kathy has been working on secondment as Special Advisor to the Vice-President, Research and International on Anti-Racism and Inclusivity at the University of Waterloo.”

    Professor Hogarth’s primary areas of research, service and teaching are on critical race, racism and equity in Canada and international contexts. She has published extensively in this area of research, including a recent collaboration with Renison President Wendy L. Fletcher titled, A Space for Race: Decoding Racism, Multiculturalism, and Post-Colonialism in the Quest for Belonging in Canada and Beyond.

    “I am delighted to welcome Dr. Hogarth to Laurier and, in particular, as an esteemed leader of the Faculty of Social Work,” said Tony Vannelli, provost and vice-president: academic in an official statement from Wilfrid Laurier University. “Her experience in academia as an inspiring educator and thought leader in issues related to social justice, equity and inclusion will be much to the benefit of students, faculty and staff alike.”

    Hogarth has provided service to the University of Waterloo in many capacities, including serving as Special Advisor, Anti-Racism & Inclusion in the Office of the Vice-President, Research and International, the Special Advisor on Racism and Anti-Racism for the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) and as a member the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce (PART) steering committee and several PART working groups. She has extensive experience in the work of equity, diversity and inclusion and, in addition to her work within the University she also engages the wider community as an equity and race consultant, speaker, and trainer. She is particularly interested in organizational and societal transformation that leads to more equitable and just worlds.

    “We wish Kathy all the best in her new position at Wilfrid Laurier University, as she continues to positively impact future Social Workers,” says the Renison article.

    Hogarth will formally begin in the role of dean of the Faculty of Social Work on Sept. 1, 2021.

    Link of the day

    Esperanto Day

    When and Where to get support

    Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

    Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment.

    Course templates are available within your course in LEARN to help you build and edit your content and assignment pages quickly.

    The following workshops, webinars, and events are offered by the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

    Employees can access resources to help them work remotely, including managing University records and privacy of personal information. Here are some tips for staying healthy while working from home.

    Stay informed about COVID cases on campus by consulting the COVID case tracker.

    The Writing and Communication Centre has virtual services and programs to help undergrads, grad students, postdocs and faculty members with academic writing.

    Co-op students can get help finding a job and find supports to successfully work remotely, develop new skills, access wellness and career information, and contact a co-op or career advisor.

    The Centre for Career Action assists undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, staff, faculty, and alumni through navigating career services that are right for them. You can attend a one-on-one appointment or same day drop-in session at the CCA for assistance with cover letter writing, career planning and much more. You can also book an appointment online or visit our Live Chat to connect with our Client Support Team. The CCA is here to help you.

    If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and TreatmentGood2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline available to all students.

    The Library continues to offer virtual access to learning and research materials as well as through their book pickup and delivery services. Davis Centre Library study space is open by appointment Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Special Collections & Archives can also be accessed by appointment. Library staff are available for questions via Ask Us. Full details of current service offerings can be found on their Services Updates page. The Library has also published a resource guide on how to avoid information overload.

    The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

    The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

    The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) supports all members of the University of Waterloo campus community who have experienced, or been impacted, by sexual violence. This includes all students, staff, faculty and visitors on the main campus, the satellite campuses, and at the affiliated and federated Waterloo Institutes and Colleges. For support, email: or visit the SVPRO website.

    The Indigenous Initiatives Office is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the university Indigenization strategy.

    The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, based at St. Paul’s University College, provides support and resources for Indigenous students, and educational outreach programs for the broader community, including lectures, and events.

    WUSA supports for students:

    Peer support  - MATES, Glow Centre, RAISE, Women’s Centre - Visit to book an appointment

    Bike Centre – Open via Appointments and Rentals

    Campus Response Team, ICSN, Off Campus Community and Co-op Connection all available online. Check for more details.

    Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Student Life Centre. If you have any questions please email us at

    Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at caps@wusa.caMore information is available.

    WUSA Commissioners who can help in a variety of areas that students may be experiencing during this time:

    WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

    Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

    When and Where (but mostly when)

    Healthy Warriors at Home (Online Fitness)

    Fitness Classes (CIF GYM 3). Power Yoga, HIIT and Zumba. Only $4/class. Advanced registration required.

    Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle. Join your fellow Warriors, donate blood and help us win the Blood Battle against Laurier for a second year in a row. Set up a profile or add the PFL code: UNIV960995 to your account if you have a account already. Questions? Contact

    Drop-in to Warrior Virtual Study Halls on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Come together in this virtual space to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

    Renison English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

    NEW - It’s the last day to register for the Wellness Session on Establishing Work/Life Harmony. Register on Portal by the end of day today. Limited spaces available.

    UWSA Open Consultation Session - Updated MOA, Tuesday, July 27, 12 noon.

    President's Forum, Tuesday, July 27, 1:00 p.m.