Sexist, Discriminatory, Illegal: A Free Summer Camp for Young Girls
Sexist, discriminatory, illegal. These were all words used to describe my free summer camp created to interest girls in STEM.
I created the camp because I learned about the gender gap in STEM and I wanted to help change it. Horrifyingly, girls will start eliminating career options for themselves as early as grade 5.
I read that 81% of girls who are encouraged into STEM by a parent are more likely to study computer science in high school than girls who were not encouraged.
Studies have shown that 72% of girls and young women say that it is important for them to have a job that directly helps the world and over 90% describe themselves as creative.
What I think most girls don’t realize is that STEM, technology especially, is a very creative field and that technology can be applied to any career. I decided to make a summer camp to teach girls in grades 6–8 HTML so that they could make their own website. Hopefully they would realize that a career in STEM is an opportunity for them.
Despite my good intentions I was getting derogatory comments on the Facebook posts about my camp. It was confusing to me. I was just trying to make a difference in the only way I knew how as a fifteen year old girl, only to be attacked by a random person in the comment section.
This wasn’t the first time that I had negative messages from this individual. In October 2017, I ran an event with my sister where women in technology came to speak to the girls in my community about their experience in this field. He had left a comment on one of my posts in our neighbourhood Facebook page saying that I should be getting the girls interested in fields with more demand and a larger gender gap, in particular, being a garbage collector. This was the only comment that was posted to this event which was focused towards girls but open to everyone.
When I started posting about my summer camp I recieved many comments from this same person. At first, he was just calling my camp sexist and discriminatory towards men, but after a while, he claimed that I was also violating human rights.
He said that he was,
“merely trying to stop sexist and frankly illegal operations,”
and that I am
“sadly mistaken if [I] think promoting misandric biased events help the community.”
He claimed that running this camp I was violating both Canadian and International Human rights.
“I will start you off with some light reading of the Ontario Human Rights Commission which would be the first stop for any complaint lodged against you for violations and your sexist organization,”
This scared me. I had already put countless hours of work into making this event possible and two days before it would run, I was being told that it was illegal.
I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to operate my camp anymore and would lose the space that was kindly donated to me by a local company, as he claimed they would also be liable.
I was worried that I would be taken to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario because he told me that this event was discriminatory.
I was worried that he wouldn’t stop sending me hurtful and rude comments when I was just trying to advertise my camp.
Feeling anxious because of his threatening comments, I reached out to a representative from Code Like a Girl who helped me by reaching out to one of their friends who had also ran STEM camps geared towards girls. This representative explained to me that as long as the event was meant for a minority then it was not illegal and not violating human rights.
They sent me an article by Marlissa Racco from Global News, which said,
“The idea that in the pursuit of equality it may be necessary to treat individuals or groups differently in order to establish ‘substantive equality’. Special programs must be designed and administered to ensure that this objective is always paramount.”
This article reassured me and made me feel that it was right to run the camp. After this, I was determined to continue with my camp and not let his hurtful comments bother me. I ran the camp and had lots of amazing feedback from both the girls and parents who also encouraged me to continue making camps and events like this one.
Now I am angry that he would try to stop people from running events just because he believes that they are sexist.
I am angry that if he persists other people may stop running an event, that could positively impact someone’s life.
And I am angry that people would stop others who are simply trying to make the world a better place.
I want people to read this and understand that it doesn’t matter if people are writing rude comments on the internet about an event that you are creating.
As long as you can make a positive impact in someone’s life, any event is worth running and no amount of hurtful comments can change that.
I, for one, will not stop organizing events that will encourage girls to consider a career in STEM.
I want to help change the gender gap and I believe that I can and will make a difference regardless of the internet trolls I encounter.