04/23/2015 08:00 EDT | Updated 07/19/2015 03:59 EDT

ICT Day encourages girls to get involved in computer sciences

An event today in Coquitlam is bringing together high school girls and women working in computer sciences as part of Girls in ICT Day, a worldwide initiative to promote the study and pursuit of careers in technology.

In Coquitlam, ICT Day [Information, Communications and Technology] is being organized by Jon Hamlin, a computer science teacher at Pinetree Secondary. Hamlin says he felt compelled to take action after seeing low enrolment numbers.

"In a good semester, we'd have five girls out of 30 in a class. Over the last couple of years that small number has dwindled even further and this is the first year I have several classes with no girls at all."

He says it may be odd for for a guy to be organizing this type of event, but recognizes there's a need for people in positions of power to do something.

Twenty-one women from the technology industry will be attending the luncheon, including professionals who work at IBM, Hootsuite and Electronic Arts.

Melody Ma, a web developer for Mountain Equipment Co-op, spoke to On the Coast's Stephen Quinn about the challenges she first faced when she entered the field.

"I would enter a room and there would be 50 grown men in the room and one other female and it is intimidating. How do you break the ice?" said Ma, who is attending today's event. 

This is the first time ICT day, which has become popular in Europe and Africa over the past few years, is being celebrated in B.C.

Hamlin hopes the luncheon will connect the girls with women who can share their stories and provide guidance in an informal atmosphere.

"It's important for girls to see themselves in the profession by seeing older women who are role models, a sense of belonging, so girls don't see it as geeky. Right now the environment is not so welcome," said Hamlin.

Ma thinks all it takes to get girls involved is to provide them an opportunity to try it. 

"...I hope other girls don't take 10 years from when they graduate from high school to discover that this is something that they can do," said Ma.

To hear the full interview with Melody and Jon, listen to the audio labelled Girls and Technology