Twice a year, the Senior Women in Tech (SWIT) get together to network, talk about different issues women face in the industry, and to seek sound advice

On Oct. 23, nearly 40 women from different companies, got together at the Verity Club in downtown Toronto to talk about the theme for the night “Authentic Female Leaders” and what that meant to them.

Women who worked or are currently working in senior positions from companies like Cogeco Peer 1, IBM and Apple, sat at tables and began the discussion by asking what authentic leadership meant to them.

A panel discussion took place after to engage in a meaningful discussion.

Sitting on the panel included IT World Canada’s President Fawn Annan, leadership coach Neville Wilson, who was formerly with IBM and Apple, and lawyer Elizabeth Dipchand of Dipchand LLP.

Annan started the panel by saying it was important for women to be self-aware if they wanted to be successful authentic leaders.

“If you’re hoping to listen to people and understand what they’re issues are or how you can help if you can possibly change, you need self-awareness and to constantly check in with yourself,” she said.

The SWIT is 15 years old and meetings used to happen in the living rooms, said Sue Banting, one of the co-founders of the group.

“I’m an executive search professional and in talking to senior women particularly in the tech industry, they complained about not having a big peer group of like-minded women,” Banting said. “A few of us got together and brainstormed about how we could come together and support each other and have a networking type of forum.

Banting, who used to work for Deloitte, said now nearly 50 to 70 women, in senior positions, come to the event.

The panel discussion continued to ask whether authentic leadership was always possible. Wilson said that it was, but in order for it to happen, we had to be aware of what our brand was and to be consistent with the brand.

Annan added that the most interesting thing that happens is that if you weren’t authentic or genuine “it comes out” and people will automatically know if you’re being fake.

In the crowd were a few regulars like Kathy Angelow, director of enterprise sales at Cogeco Peer 1, who had been coming for many years.

She said that in the past it was a lot more difficult to have female representation in the tech space. In fact, when she first started out she really wanted to be a sales representative for Bell but she was turned down for the role.

“When I started at Bell I wanted to be in sales and at the time I was told that girls don’t start in sales, you have to start in customer service, and that’s what I did,” she said, adding that eventually she just made her way into sales.

She said that women are a lot better represented now.

“However, the difficulty is getting young women to think of IT as a career and that has to start in early education times as well because I don’t think that’s typically something that girls would do,” Angelow said.

New attendee Tiffany Wong, an engineer and senior environmental specialist at Public Services and Procurement Canada, said she learned of the group by networking.

“I think it’s phenomenal and it’s a very insightful event. I think as women we need more mentors especially in our respective fields…men tend to have some common attributes and so having a network [is helpful],” Wong said.

It was her first event and she said there were aspects that she knew coming into the event, but other tidbits of information were new to her, which she appreciated.

“There are certain tidbits or nuggets that I didn’t really think about and it really put things into a different perspective and now I can think about it,” Wong said, saying she never thought to put her leadership style into an adjective as Wilson said to do.

At the end of the panel, the three guests shared some wisdom to the women in the room.

Wilson said to think about adjectives that describe you as a leader, Dipchand said to always do something that makes you happy, which will help you “succeed tenfold,’ and Annan said: “You don’t have to wait until you can check off every box before you stand up and make your case, men don’t do it so you don’t.”



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