The Creators Series: Women In Tech - Kylie Toh

The beauty of coding is that it can be used to create things. There's a huge element of creativity, art and self-expression in code that we don't talk about.

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The world of technology is in a state of constant evolvement. Changes are seen everyday in programming, coding, and development. Start-ups cause a disruption and break apart convention and traditional ways of doing things. And women have started to disrupt the industry in their own way. Women, such as Kylie Toh are breaking down the barriers of gender roles and making a name for themselves in the tech industry. 

To start off our “Women in Tech” feature for the Creators Series, we’d like to share Kylie’s story.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Kylie Toh. I'm 24-years-old and I'm originally from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I moved to Calgary for school and have a Bachelor of Communications, majoring in Public Relations. I'm a self-proclaimed geek and when I'm not reading or learning to build a website, I like to keep busy with old lady crafts that range from knitting to card making. 

2. What is Chic Geek and what gave you the inspiration to start it?

Chic Geek is a non-profit society working to create a welcoming, supportive and confidence-building community for women and girls who want to explore technology, entrepreneurship and startups. We host two annual flagship events that profile amazing women doing awesome things, partner with Ladies Learning Code to run basic programming workshops for beginners, and run our own mentorship program, which was developed uniquely for our audience.


There are a few reasons I started Chic Geek. We're seeing more female enrolment in post-secondary institutions, but fewer women signing up in programs like math and computer science. The Information and Communications Technology industry (ICT) is roughly made up of 25% women. While that might seem pretty good, it's a number that hasn't changed in the past 10 years. Considering how integral technology is in our lives, why haven't we seen more women become part of the group pioneering, shaping and developing it? Looking to pillars like Silicon Valley, there's a huge gender imbalance. Technology startups are shaping the future and women need to be involved in that problem solving and development. There's a huge, exciting world to be a part of and I wanted to encourage more women to explore the areas of technology, entrepreneurship and startups. 

3. What has given you the greatest satisfaction as a result from starting Chic Geek?

We've received a lot of feedback from members in our community saying how important Chic Geek is to them. Women have gained confidence at our coding workshops, enough so that they feel comfortable freelancing and continuing to learn on their own. We've also seen job opportunities open up to women in areas that they wouldn't have necessarily looked at before. Here are some testimonials from our community: 

“It has helped me build a network of fellow driven females who also work in the technology community.”

“Being involved with the Chic Geek has made me better at my job. I'm able to understand the technical jargon that has become a daily part of my work. It's also allowed me to develop a network of people to rely on if I ever get stuck on a technical (or non-technical) problem at work.”

“Being involved in the Chic Geek event has encouraged me to pursue my long put-off dream of becoming a web designer.”

4. What are some differences/improvements you've seen in women involvement in the tech industry since you started Chic Geek? 

This is a really hard question to answer. Our goal at Chic Geek is to give women the confidence to continue exploring technology and startups at a deeper level. We're two-years-old and to be completely honest, we probably won't see major changes in women's involvement in the tech industry in our generation. We'll see small, individual changes and can be a part of setting the stage for the next generation to succeed. 

5. Why should everyone learn the basics of coding?

We live in an ever-evolving technological world. It's not enough to just consume anymore. The ability to create is what leads to participation. 

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6. What do you think is the biggest misconception about coding?

I think one of the biggest misconceptions about coding is that it's very mathematical and people who code are guys who sit in the dark and live in the basement of their parents' house. The beauty of coding is that it can be used to create things. There's a huge element of creativity, art and self-expression in code that we don't talk about. If I had known that in high school, I might have taken that computer programming class. 

7. Do you have any advice for aspiring coders/young women wanting to get involved in tech?

Borrowing from Nike, "just do it." Take a leap and try it out. You don't need to be perfect at it and just because you can't wrap your head around it the first time doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. Find other women who want to learn with you and they'll be your support group and cheerleaders as you grow. 

8. Anything else that we missed and that you would like to share?

Chic Geek is an organization powered entirely off volunteers. In 2014, we counted 9 dedicated volunteers who put in over 2,500 hours towards building that welcoming, supportive community for women and girls exploring technology, entrepreneurship and startups. Collectively, we ran 42 events and showcased 84 women leaders and role models in the Calgary community. 

written by: Sim Tatla