Written by Jessica Galang

Last night, HoHoTO hosted its infamous party and raised $22,500 to fund a 2017 partnership program with the YWCA Toronto Girls’ Centre, which provides a safe space for young women and girls between nine to 18 to develop skills and connect. Through the partnership, HoHoTO will provide over 350 girls the opportunity to explore careers in Toronto’s tech industry.

“HoHoTO’s mission has always been to help the Toronto tech community realize its potential by connecting current professionals, while above all striving to attract a generation of new ones,” said Lee Dale, HoHoTO co-chair. “Our partnership with YWCA Toronto’s Girls’ Centre and the mentorship program will empower young women to learn about opportunities available in tech and, more importantly, go after them.”

HoHoTO has already been at work with YWCA; on November 18, the organizations hosted the Girls’ Tech Tour, which gave dozens of young girls the opportunity to visit tech companies throughout the city and learn from female leaders about their work in the tech industry. Participating companies included ecobee, Nuvango, RateHub — and BetaKit and MobileSyrup!

Speaking with the girls after giving a talk on breaking into tech journalism, one of the biggest takeaways from the tour was the realization that people in the tech industry come from all walks of life.

“I was leaning more towards a computer engineering or coding program, and I didn’t know much about coding before and I thought it was something you had to go to college for,” said Radia Alam. “But I realized that you can look for other experiences, and look outside of the box and be more creative with the field. There’s more than one way to get to it.”

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Erum Hasan agreed after meeting a graphic designer from RateHub that dropped out of college twice. “She’s doing well now. It made me see that it doesn’t matter where you’re going in life, if you love what you’re doing, you’ll get there.”

Another big takeaway from the event — both from its young participants and for the participating companies — was the importance of female role models in male-dominated industries. Lamisa Islam, who participated in the tour, said she was skeptical about pursuing tech because of the feeling that she wouldn’t be good enough.

“I’m not a tech-based person. In my high school, I’m in the arts program and I was kind of forced to do a tech course. Everyone around me were guys, and I felt like I was the dumb one there,” said Islam. “But after asking questions to my teacher and seeing what I can do — and now I know how to code — it gave me more confidence. And seeing how many women are in tech and are actually happy has inspired me to pursue tech in the future.”

Heather McGregor, CEO of YWCA Toronto, said that the HoHoTO partnership will act as an extension of its efforts to provide more opportunities for young women in Toronto. “This partnership allows the girls to envision themselves in tech-based roles, and provides them access to strong, successful women who can share with them tools, guidance, and relevant information they need to pursue digital careers,” said McGregor.

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StartUp HERE Toronto is a publishing partner of Betakit and this article was originally published on their site.