By Kristy Strauss
Aashna Narang is one of just a few female students in her computer science course at Longfields-Davidson Heights Secondary School.
So when the Grade 10 student heard about the Technovation Challenge being launched at Carleton University on Jan. 17, she knew she wanted to participate.
The 15 year-old student joined 45 other young women and girls from six local high schools to kick off the Technovation Challenge program at the university’s new Accelerator – a state-of-the-art facility for students working to launch and grow their businesses.
The California-based challenge is a worldwide competition for females aged 10 to 18. Over the next 12 weeks, teams of young women and girls in 45 countries will develop mobile applications and prepare business plans for their apps.
In the early spring, eight teams will travel to California to pitch their ideas for a chance to win $10,000.
Carleton’s Technology Innovation Management (TIM) program is supporting the 45 young women and girls, who will be organized into nine teams. TIM students and staff delivered a tutorial on mobile application development on the first week of the program. They will deliver the remainder of the 12-week program using facilities of companies such as IBM and Shopify and employees of these two companies will mentor the young women.
Carleton President Roseann O’Reilly Runte said the university was the perfect location to host this year’s Technovation Challenge in Ottawa since it has launched more than 185 startups since 2010.
The young women and girls participating in the competition should be applauded, she said.
“One of the ways women succeed is we work together, we network, we create teams – and all of us together are much bigger than any one of us alone,” she said.
Tony Bailetti, director of Carleton’s TIM program and Entrepreneurship Teaching Area Coordinator at the Sprott School of Business, said it’s particularly important to encourage young women and girls in technology entrepreneurship starting in high school.
“In the past, what we’ve done in this region is talk about technology as operating in a man’s world,” he said. “As a result, we miss out on 50 per cent of our capabilities in technology and entrepreneurship. To increase the representation of women in technology and entrepreneurship, we must act decisively, not just talk or produce more studies. We need good role models, good programs, clear objectives, encouragement, and engagement at all levels.
“We must do a much better job providing attractive opportunities in technology and entrepreneurship to our daughters, granddaughters, and sisters, as well as to the many talented women who reside in Ottawa.”
The Ottawa Chapter of Women Powering Technology, a not-for-profit organization that supports and empowers women in technology, brought the Technovation Challenge to Ottawa.
Board member Jennifer Francis, principal of Cafe Noir Consulting, says she has had a rewarding career in the tech world.
But she has seen first-hand that the field is male-dominated.
“When I went to university, I took math and computer science courses – and I was the (only) girl,” Francis says.
Rochelle Moore, a 16 year-old Grade 11 student from South Carleton High School, participated in the Technovation Challenge because she hopes to have a career in graphic design.
Moore says she thinks the competition will encourage other young women her age to pursue careers in technology and entrepreneurship.
“I think it’s really good since it’s a male-dominated area,” she says. “And, it’s really good to just empower girls.”
To learn more about Carleton’s TIM program, visit: Carleton.ca/TIM.
To learn more about the Technovation Challenge, visit: Technovationchallenge.org.