Narrowing gender gaps in tech sector

Digital Waves NL introduces new program to address challenges faced by various demographics




SaltWire Network


According to Lesley Chard, founder of Digital Waves NL, gender gaps persist in the tech sector, particularly affecting women and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. “I’ve noticed a huge lack of gender diversity in the technology field,” said Chard. “If you don’t have a diverse pool of people working on tech innovations, they’re only going to work for one type of person.” FINDING A SOLUTION Chard said women often lean toward careers that bring positive change, while individuals from the 2SLGBTQIA+ spectrum shy away due to social hurdles. In response, Digital Waves NL — a non-profit organization in St. John’s — is introducing the Learn to Code for Community Impact program, aimed at upping diversity in the tech sector by addressing the challenges faced by these demographics. CREATING TANGIBLE SOLUTIONS The new program encompasses three workshops providing hands-on learning within a supportive environment. Participants will gain practical coding skills, she said. “We aim to equip them with essential skills — HTML, website design, and CSS,” she said. “It’s not theoretical. They’ll be creating tangible solutions.” The program extends beyond coding, encouraging participants to contribute to real-impact projects, she added. FOSTERING INCLUSIVITY The program also takes an active approach to combating gender gaps. One key strategy involves exposing participants to diverse role models. Digital Waves has partnered with Quadrangle NL and Stem for Girls to provide a roster of mentors. “The participants need to see individuals who look like them,” said Chard. “By exposing participants to these role models and impact projects, we’re fostering inclusivity. It’s about ensuring the tech sector reflects the world’s diversity.” Through addressing realworld problems, Chard said, participants gain firsthand experience in how their technical skills can make a positive impact. INSPIRING AGENTS OF CHANGE Chard is not only determined to address the gender gaps, but to make an impact on the community. “We’re guiding them to use these skills for something meaningful,” said Chard. “We want to nurture a generation of coders who comprehend technology’s power to bring positive change.” Chard envisions a ripple effect, where young coders, armed with newfound skills and a sense of social responsibility, become agents of change. “Our participants will be architects of a more inclusive and innovative future,” said Chard. ‘CODING IS COOL AND EXCITING’ Paisley Emshey, 10, is an upcoming participant and is excited about coding. “Coding has been an interest of mine since I was nine years old,” she said. “That’s what got me interested — coding is cool and exciting.” When she gets stuck, it isn’t a problem — rather, it’s something Paisley sees as a positive because then she has to seek out support. She said she enjoys learning all she can about coding. Her interest in the Digital Waves program is for her own project. “My interest in the program is website coding. I am developing my own website and this can help me.” Paisley said she considers herself fortunate to be exposed to such programs. “Programs like this are very important to young minds. The program will help me develop as a coder,” she said. UPLIFTING YOUNG CODERS The online workshops are scheduled to start on Nov. 22. “We are very excited to kick off the program and witness the transformation of our participants,” said Chard. As Digital Waves NL gears up for the program launch, the organization is already contemplating the future. Beyond this initial phase, Digital Waves NL currently has expansion plans. “We aim to reach more communities, collaborate with more partners, and make a broader impact on narrowing gender gaps in the tech sector,” said Chard. “By fostering relationships with local organizations and educational institutions, we hope to create a network that uplifts aspiring young coders.”