Welcome to ITWC’s March 2018 community slideshow! Every month we ask leaders in the Canadian technology industry about a general life topic as a fun way to know the community a little better. In honour of International Women’s Day, we decided to ask female executives across the industry:
“How can we increase the number of women working in Canadian tech?”
Read on for answers from Adobe, IBM, Telus, and more!
[Editor’s note: Some answers have been edited for length.]
Carrie Lee, senior enterprise account executive with Adobe Canada
“By increasing the number of role models, which helps educate young women and girls on different roles in tech. This is especially important on the senior/executive/founder level since the higher you go, the less you see women on top. It’s equally important for organizations to support diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace. As Einstein once said, ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ It’s about time for companies to be much more conscious about how they hire, and also how they attract talent in the first place.”
Rola Dagher, president of Cisco Canada
“It’s all about inspiration and about demonstrating what a STEM career can be for women. The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing every industry, and we need to help women and girls dream big and see new possibilities for themselves in our evolving world. Cisco is committed to this through programs like the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle with the goal of supporting women in being successful in leading high-growth businesses. The Cisco Networking Academy program is also key for us in both helping to fill the increasing IT skills gap – but also in inspiring girls to look at all the possibilities a career in technology can hold in making the world a better place.”
Shelly Lowe, vice president of enterprise and commercial with IBM Canada
“As women in technology, we have a fundamental responsibility to help attract, nurture, develop, and mentor other women to grow their careers within the Canadian technology landscape. Companies such as IBM have invested significant resources in actively attracting girls and women into technology through STEM programs in our schools. It is important to also showcase the many types of jobs and careers that are available in technology, and highlight the wide range of skills that may attract a broader audience of women to this sector, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication. With innovation being so integral to the success of the Canadian technology sector, private industry must also take an active role in supporting female entrepreneurs who are making a significant and positive impact on our economy.”
Angela Brown, president and CEO of Moneris Solutions
“I believe that we can increase the number of women in Canadian tech by addressing the obstacles faced in each age group. For children, it’s all about demystifying math and science, and making it fun by linking it to the world around them. For young adults, it’s about working to open their eyes to the variety of career possibilities, and creating programs that will prepare them for those careers, like the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC)’s BTM (business technology management) program. When women join the workforce, it’s important to create mentorship programs and offer benefits that support the competing, but equally important, demands of career and family. Technology is our future – it’s always changing and never boring; it’s a great sector for women and men alike; and we need to attract as much talent as possible!”
Joan Leroux, senior vice president of sales with PointClickCare
“I believe it starts with awareness, education and support. Companies need people to connect with their technology. When technology can tell the story of what it does, what problem it solves and how it helps, that is when you catch the attention and passions of women and men. Having a company culture that is inclusive fuels diversity. People want to work in an environment where everyone has an equal voice and can impact change. Mentoring programs also play a big role. A company that invests time and money into helping females fulfill their career aspirations will inevitably see an increase in retention and attraction of top female talent. Lastly, companies need to take a good look at their current demographics. Having a good balance in your front-line staff but woefully one-sided as you move into roles of increasing responsibility is a glaring red flag for most women. Smart women will suss that out pretty quickly and either not apply or leave.”
Shimona Mehta, head of sales acceleration with Shopify Plus
“While I don’t have all the answers on how we can increase the number of women working in Canadian tech, I believe that meaningful action-oriented dialogue is extremely important. To make an impact, we need to recognize we will not fully solve the problem at once, but make changes that ladder up to the larger goal. I believe there are a few key areas to focus on: inspiring women to consider roles in tech by helping to build the talent pipeline; mentoring and supporting women as they navigate their roles; and providing resources to help them succeed. At Shopify, we help women foster a love of tech by engaging with local university students. We also have many kickass leaders that help level up other women in the organization through one-on-one mentorship. Lastly, we offer personal development resources and coaching to help the next generation of women become leaders.”
Erika Van Noort, senior director of talent acquisition with Softchoice
“We often think only of roles deeply rooted in technology, such as network engineers, solution architects, or developers when we think of technology. But the reality is that most organizations today are enabled to do more using technology – it touches every role. A bank, for example, has now evolved to be technology company that happens to be in the financial services space. I believe we can increase the number of women working in technology in Canada simply by understanding the role technology plays in all roles, across all organizations, and I feel employers have a responsibility to highlight that role. From there, communicating this reality to potential candidates in a way that is exciting and allows them to see how they can be fully engaged in either a dedicated technology role or one that fully leverages the expansiveness technology provides.”
Anne Belliveau, vice-president of business brand with Telus Corp.
“Although women make up 60 per cent of all graduates worldwide, they are still underrepresented in executive positions in IT organizations globally. To increase women’s presence in Canadian tech, we must focus on 1) fostering an organizational culture of courage and compassion where genders are balanced, 2) reducing bias in succession planning, and most of all 3) doing a better job of positioning women’s unique strengths as a strong transformative driver. This last point is crucial as I firmly believe it is our own responsibility, as women, to raise our hands and have the courage to stand up. Showing that courage is not easy, even when we have all the required skills and abilities. In a world where IT’s core mission is to create better human outcomes at home, in the workplace and on the move, the power and influence of women can be a major growth catalyst.”
Tracey Mikita, chief people person with Vena Solutions
“There are plenty of tactics we can employ as an industry to increase the number of women in technology, but in my experience it all starts at the company level, with the leadership team and corporate culture. Leadership teams that include women in multiple, prominent roles – at Vena, I’m lucky to be a part of one – not only set an example, but give younger women role models they can see and work with on a daily basis. It’s your leadership team that sets the tone for your corporate culture and values. Your company leaders should constantly re-evaluate your culture and brand, ensuring they represent your values and rooting out hidden biases in your policies and practices. Last but not least, remember that it’s your leadership team that has the loudest voice in celebrating your victories and values. Communicating them, reinforcing them… and living them.
Jenna Dorman, vice president of sales with Vision Critical
“Most of the early programs that are established to help lift the number of women in the industry are focused on the pipeline problem of not enough women graduating with computer science degrees. There is an opportunity for greater investment in programs that educate and promote the dynamic career paths beyond technical roles and map well to complementary skill sets, such as enterprise sales, customer success and product marketing. We should be thinking about tipping the scale by increasing the education, mentorship and recruiting programs that promote opportunities for women across the organization.”