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Girl Power! Ted Rogers Scholarship recipient Francesca Berkoh’s journey started with a puzzle-solving mouse.

There are more than 1.1 billion girls across the globe, and they are ready to take on the world! On Sunday, October 11, we recognize their power and potential on the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl.  This year’s theme is “My Voice, Our Equal Future,” with a focus on learning new skills towards the futures they choose, and activism to accelerate social change.

Here at home, we’re inspired by young leaders such as Francesca Berkoh, a Class of 2020 Ted Rogers Scholarship recipient.  Francesca was nominated for the scholarship by Canada Learning Code, an organization dedicated to teaching digital skills such as coding to Canadians, with a particular focus on women, Indigenous youth, new Canadians, and people with disabilities.  Now studying Computer Science at Carleton University, we asked Francesca about her inspirations and thoughts on women in STEM:

What inspired your passion for coding?

Geronimo Stilton. I think his novels planted my love for solving mysteries and puzzles. So when I discovered programming, I fell in love with the idea that I could solve puzzles for a living.  

Why do you feel it is important for young women to learn coding skills? What does it do for Canada and the world?

Currently there’s a gap between genders in the tech field. So, an increase in women in STEM brings new and diverse perspectives that create innovative solutions for generations to come. 

What woman inspires you to reach for your dreams?

Malala Yousafzai. Her fearlessness towards guarding her rights and the rights of girls around her inspire me.  I remind myself of her courage when I’m doubting how attainable my dreams are. 

What would you say to a little girl who is curious about coding and computers but thinks it’s just for little boys?

Learning to code is like unlocking a superpower!  With just a couple lines of code, you can create programs that can have a massive impact on the lives of others.  Girls can do anything boys can…and sometimes even better. If you ignore your curiosity towards tech you never know your full potential.

What impact do you want to make in the world with the skills you are developing?

A career goal of mine is to create a series of service applications that each serve a specific group of vulnerable and underserved individuals in our society. Technology is a powerful tool, and I will use it to empower and impact the lives of those around me. I want to give these people a voice and to improve their quality of life.

This year is the 8th year that the UN has marked International Year of the Girl.  What advice would you give your 8-year-old self?

Don’t doubt yourself as much and don’t be scared to fail! If you let the fear of failure over take you, you will never be satisfied.   

Since 2018, Rogers has provided $375,000 in Ted Rogers Community Grants to Canada Learning Code and Actua for programs that support girls in STEM.  Francesca was one of five young women in the Class of 2020 of scholarship recipients who participated in Canada Learning Code programs.  Empowering youth through education – and women in science, technology, engineering, and math programs – is just one of the ways Rogers is working to make a better Canada possible for everyone.

Empowering youth through education.

One of the ways Rogers is helping to make a better Canada possible.