HoHoTO, Inspiring young women with the future of design and technology: a YWCA Toronto’s Girls’ Centre expedition to FITC Toronto

Known as the creativity and design conference, FITC—the Future of Innovation, Technology, and Creativity—welcomed thousands of attendees to Toronto from April 23-25, 2017, including creatives, technologists, executives, and marketers.

This year, FITC Toronto also opened its doors to future digital professionals, welcoming fifteen girls from YWCA Toronto’s Girls’ Centre for the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by the brightest creative and innovative minds while exploring new technologies throughout the conference.

For some, this was a fresh, first-time experience. The girls explored the latest technology, a favourite being VR stations on the show floor. Each group of girls took turns stepping into the fascinating future of virtual worlds.

“I like how everything is hands on. We don’t really get access to do stuff, so I like how we can come here and try new products to give us a better understanding of technology,” said Niaz from the Centre.

Exploring VR on the show floor at FITC.

Although most of the talks were focused on the tangibles of technology and creativity, speakers brought their presentations back into the perspective of real life circumstances and experiences.

“I really enjoyed the Why Looking at Failure Leads to Success talk by Victoria Evans because people fail so many times in their lives, but turning it into success and seeing it in a different way is really interesting,” said Sarah from the Centre.

Most girls attended FITC with the belief that the technology world was only for geniuses who were hyper-specialized in creating hardware and software, but they were caught by surprise when they saw artists, marketers, and designers in passing and during presentations.

For Lena—an aspiring teacher—attending FITC Toronto motivated her to consider how she could broaden and modernize her future teaching curriculum.

“It’s really interesting how technology can encompass so many different fields of study, not just the IT field,” she said, “There are so many different uses of technology and in the future as a teacher I could implement them.”

Radia—who wishes to have a career in technology—says FITC Toronto was an open and honest environment where she felt connected to the innovators, designers, and creatives she admires.

“What I liked most about FITC was how involved all of the presenters were with their projects. They know so much about their topics and they are so open. It’s inspiring to know that you might be able to do the same things too,” she said.

Radia and friends at FITC.

The girls left the conference with a new perspective on the world of technology, and with new inspiration to pursue their dreams wholeheartedly.

“If I have an idea, I shouldn’t be limited based on what I have or don’t have. I should just get out there and use my passion and creative skills to make it happen.”

~ Erum Hasan

On behalf of YWCA Toronto’s Girls’ Centre, HoHoTO would like to thank FITC for partnering with us in providing more opportunities for the next generation of digital professionals.

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The YWCA Toronto’s Girls’ Centre in east Toronto is the only centre of its kind in Canada. This centre serves girls ages 9-18, of all ethnicities and belief systems, by providing a safe space, food, activities, and learning programs, 7 days a week.

With our collective efforts, we can inspire young minds across Toronto with new opportunities in business and technology.

Help us continue with our Girls’ Tech Tour and other inclusivity programs throughout 2018 by joining us at this year’s HoHoTO, happening Dec 8, 2017.

Dec 8 2017 HoHoTO Tickets start at $30 at http://weare.to

Thank you for your ongoing support!

Introducing Together, our new year-round volunteer organization shaping a more inclusive digital community.

Together logo

We’re so grateful for all of your support over the years and are thrilled to announce Together, our new organization name and identity that brings together all our year-round initiatives made possible by the money raised at our HoHoTO events, sponsorship, and our other events.

HoHoTO has been our trademark name since 2008, but with year round initiatives that shape a more inclusive digital community, we need to bring all these efforts Together, and move away from being seen as just a holiday party.

HoHoTO will remain as the name of our annual holiday party, bringing our great community of influencers and doers together in support of the YWCA Toronto’s Girls’ Centre and our other year-round initiatives.

Save the date: HoHoTO is back December 8, 2017

HoHoTO Dance Moves

On December 8, 2017, HoHoTO is back in full effect! A night of celebration, food, drinks, fellowship and donations towards the YWCA Toronto’s Girls’ Centre, this annual holiday party is one to marker. Clear your evening schedule and join us at the Mod Club Theatre from 7:30pm to 1:30am.

Women in STEM: engineer and project manager Staphesa Richards

As a child, Staphesa Richards had always been a big fan of the TV series, Transformers, but it wasn’t until she saw engineers working on hydroelectric plants in Niagara Falls that she knew engineering was a profession in which she wanted to work.

In high school, her math teacher—who trained as an electrical engineer—told her that she wasn’t fit for engineering. Though one might think this discouraged her to shy away from her dream, Staphesa instead took this comment as a challenge she would gladly meet.

“If you don’t pursue (your dreams), you won’t figure out the best of yourself…”

So she decided to pursue a career in engineering.

During the fours years of her program in electrical engineering at Queen’s University, Staphesa discovered her gift of communication and project management. After graduating, she found a position at a small consulting firm that specialized in construction engineering. Here, she grew a particular interest in building and planning for projects. This prompted her to transfer her career focus, later becoming a project manager for a construction company.

Today, Staphesa is a project manager for Industrial Electrical Contractors. Her day-to-day responsibilities require ongoing communication between teams on projects, whether emailing clients, or holding meetings with her team, suppliers, and distributors, all to ensure the success of these complicated endeavours.

On women in STEM

As she began pursuing her STEM-related career, Staphesa was surprised by the scarce representation of women in her field.

At Queen’s “there were only five women out of a class of 40,” she said, “Since you are a female, you find as if it is thought you have to push that much harder and demonstrate or prove that you are knowledgeable in the field that you work in,” said Richards.

She encourages young women to stay the course, chasing after their goals and dreams relentlessly, even if it means they encounter obstacles along the way.

“I would never recommend, suggest, or tell women or anyone to limit themselves based on the idea that something is hard. In any and every field that you go into, there are obstacles that you’re going to have to face and challenges that you’ll have to overcome,” she said. “You can’t run away from the board meetings and the communication meetings, otherwise, you won’t learn how to deal with it.”

“I would never recommend, suggest, or tell women or anyone to limit themselves based on the idea that something is hard.”

~ Staphesa Richards

Harassment is one of many obstacles some women in STEM face.

As sensitive and intolerable as this topic is, Staphesa encourages women to avoid stagnancy, never allowing these tendencies to shy them away from their passions.

“Women are not islands.”

As a way of addressing the negative stigma around women in STEM, Staphesa says that women should make the effort to be more honest and open so that younger women can enter into the field more prepared.

Staphesa is doing her part through personal mentorship with young women. She also tutors math students.

“If you’re open and honest, maybe the girls who are deciding to go into these fields can make more well-informed decisions around it and create environments that aren’t unbearable for the next generation.”

Stay tuned for our next installation of Women in STEM with Camille Mitchell.