Students Nora and Jade showed off their creativity, problem-solving skills and innovation at the University of Toronto Schools’ Blues Hackathon, which took place from January 19–21, 2024. The Blues Hackathon is a competition for students aged 13–18 with a passion for using code and technology to come up with solutions to the issues affecting our world today. Equipped only with their coding knowledge and determination, Branksome’s two student participants entered the competition determined to use their creativity to shape a better world.
Upon arriving on the first day of the competition, the students got to work devising a solution to the open prompt: Breaking Barriers. As students at a girls’ school, Nora and Jade are passionate about creating space for women and girls, and breaking barriers for women in the workplace is something they care about deeply. “In the status quo, girls are often told that their dreams are unreachable and unrealistic. These words are reinforced by a lack of support and opportunities from society that are necessary to fulfill their goals,” said Nora and Jade while introducing their project. “In finance, women only made up 30% of entry-level positions in 2022. In STEM, women made up 27% of the workforce in 2019.” In continuing their research, Nora and Jade found that barriers were even more evident when it comes to race, sexual orientation and class.
Over the next three days, Nora and Jade used their knowledge of HTML and CSS to create a women-only social media networking site called Sis-ciety. “To us, one thing remains clear: we need to develop a far-reaching, accessible net for women to step into the careers they deserve,” they said. On this free-to-use site, aspiring students can talk to and learn from women in the workforce and receive one-on-one mentorship and guidance with someone in their preferred field, located near their community.
Nora and Jade finished the competition with an honourable mention. After completing the challenge, the team was already thinking about how to improve their project—adding AI filter systems, chat rooms and forum capabilities, as well as accessibility features to ensure Sis-ciety will be available for use by all.
We wish to acknowledge this land on which Branksome operates. For thousands of years, it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous peoples from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work and go to school on this land.