At just nineteen, Genevieve L’Esperance has already established herself as role model. It could be because she has her very own brand, Gen Inc. and a cool poster depicting her as a modern day Gladiator, with an Ipad in hand. But if watching the keen faces of dozens of eleven and twelve year olds from Birchwood Elementary School is any indication, it is what Genevieve is teaching that has them captivated.

The students are part of a 4Girls workshop at McGill University in which some two hundred girls rotate between workshops in the stem fields of science, technology, engineering and math. In one classroom, Genevieve is teaching the girls how to write computer code. They’re programming a turtle to move and change colors.

Even in 2012, computer technology remains a male dominated industry. The most recent numbers from Statistics Canada show that in 2008; 3,219 more males than females graduated from university in the fields of mathematics, computer and information science in the country.

Genevieve says for many of the girls in her classroom, the workshop is the first introduction to computer programming. And it appears to be having some success with this group. “I never used to do much on the computer except my school projects. But now I’m more interested and will probably do more stuff in my free time,” twelve-year-old Delia Clark-Bautista says.

That’s just what Genevieve wants to hear because it is at the tween age that girls start to feel social pressures and turn away from the stem fields. Gen herself was fourteen when she got the computer bug during a trip to Texas. “I met a woman who wanted to open a technology community school for girls in Bangladesh and her intention was something that I found inspiring.”

So much so in fact, that at seventeen Genevieve started what she calls “Genning”. It is a video blog she hosts on the YouTube channel GenINCtv where she has interviewed the likes of film director James Cameron about engaging young women in technology.

Microsoft took notice and her schedule has been a whirlwind ever since.

The McGill undergrad in computer science already has a resume that reads like a senior executive, including being the youngest intern at Microsoft Research and named one of the Young Women Leaders Under 25 by the International Alliance for Women.

Genevieve is only in her first year of university, but when she graduates she hopes to help people in the developing world through computer science and biology. “There’s a lot of things that mobile devices can do in developing countries; one of my friends developed an application that checks malaria.”

It may seem like a lot to handle for a nineteen-year-old, even if she does have an overwhelming amount of energy. But Gen says she has found the balance. “Finding happiness, it is this intersection of doing what you love doing and what you are good at, and doing what the world needs.”

Debra Arbec co-anchors CBC News Montreal with Andrew Chang weekdays from 5 – 6:30 pm. Watch for her “Montrealer of the Week” segment Fridays during the 6pm newscast. To see past profiles, visit: www.cbc.ca/montreal

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