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 HP Canada, GE, eBay Canada, and more!

[Editor’s note: Some answers have been edited for length.]

We received so many responses, this became our first three-part community slideshow! You can view part one here and part three here.

(Our sincerest thanks to the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC)’s membership and business development director, Mariana Kutin Morais, who collected these for us.)

Susanne M. Flett, founder and president of Healthtech Consultants

“We need to be proactive. A focus on young women and girls positioning knowledge about technology as a life skill, a key to success, and highlighting that technology is an enabler in every industry, may remove some of the ‘geeky’ stigma. Strong female role models, mentorship programs and monitoring the statistics (currently only about 23 per cent of technology jobs are held by women) are ongoing strategies as well.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)

Denise Shortt, vice president of industry development with ITAC

“Diversity is our strength – as an industry and as a country. Gender parity and inclusion are incredibly important to Canada’s growing digital economy, as they lead to increased innovation and an economic and competitive advantage for Canadian companies. There must be continued collaboration, clear mandates, and sufficient resources – developed through industry, government and academia – to ensure Canada can capitalize on its evolving ICT sector. We can help close the digital skills gap in Canada by encouraging more young women to enter the ICT sector by providing and supporting targeted programs and scholarships geared toward this group; by continued funding by government on initiatives that encourage STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics); by encouraging women to explore an IT profession through alternative pathways; and by ensuring that it advances and retains female leaders in both the public and private sectors.”

Mary Ann Yule, president and CEO of HP Canada

“As an industry, we have an opportunity and responsibility to better create inclusive environments that attract women into technology-related careers. In Canada, women comprise more than 60 per cent of my leadership team. This didn’t happen by chance. Our company culture plays an important role in hiring, supporting and retaining female talent. This starts with training our hiring managers to reduce unconscious bias. At the same time, we have made a concerted effort to ensure our recruiters bring forward candidates equally across both genders. This has empowered us to hire more senior female leaders who, in turn, have become the role models to those more junior.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)

Laure Tessier-Delivuk, senior business operations director with GE Healthcare Digital Canada

“Today in the healthcare tech industry, it is all about building solutions, which requires a lot of creativity and collaboration. When hiring, technical skills and accomplishments are important of course, but organizations need to focus just as much on the ‘how’ as the ‘what’ during an interview, and look for empathy, ability to relate, and an ability to get buy-in. A lot of women I know are incredibly skilled at this approach, which is very conducive to a creative and collaborative environment.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)

Kelly Breedon, senior vice president of people with Softchoice

“I believe there are two things we need to do. First – fill the talent funnel by improving how we prepare our female leaders of tomorrow through progressive STEM programs today. Secondly, put successful Canadian female technology leaders in front of young women to inspire them to pursue technology careers.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)

Fariba Anderson, CEO of AcuteNet

“More men need to encourage women to sign up for life in tech. Men in leadership positions need to set targets to hire and promote more women. Women need to promote each other as a daily transaction. We have a tendency to be life-long friends before we recommend each other. This model is not scalable and we have the power to change it. Finally, we need to embrace the personal and professional risk to step into uncomfortable positions. This is based on my own personal experience. I realized the only way I could advance was to change my own attitude and embrace risk and failure at the speed of light.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, president and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia

“In order to increase the number of women in Canadian tech, we need to start with our youth, as it all starts at home, in our own backyards. We have to motivate and inspire our children equally, let them follow their passion and consistently lead by example. Exposing young people from all walks of life to the magnitude of opportunities available within the ICT and digital technologies industry, whilst increasing the visibility of women in tech, are two essential paths to a more diverse and inclusive workforce. We women should also celebrate and promote our successes, and be role models for our future generations. As visible and vocal role models, we can have a greater impact on how women are perceived in our industry while increasing the profile of women in tech.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)

Shirley Mitrou, BC delivery executive with Fujitsu Consulting (Canada) Inc.

“As we know, women represent the majority of university graduates in Canada, however, they remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. On average only 30 percent of the workforce in technology are women. We all know that there are many reasons we have this gap. I believe this is in part due to the fact that it can be hard for some people to see the connection between technology and changing people’s lives. We all know that ‘making a difference’ draws people to careers. Having a career in technology no longer means being in the backroom writing code. Today it means interacting with the business community in an agile manner to create digital solutions to transform their business models. We need to get this message out there. Fortunately we have already come a long way – there are many women advocating for women in the industry and we need to keep this focus.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)

Andrea Stairs, general manager of eBay Canada and Latin America

“We need to modernize the definition of what a career in tech means. The tech industry is now one of the broadest there is, yet the conception of what a tech career looks like is incredibly narrow. Technology isn’t just coding and quantum mechanics – it spans healthcare, sports, law, fashion, the environment… virtually all aspects of personal and professional life. Updating the perception of what a career in tech looks like to better reflect today’s reality will show women that this industry is inclusive of diverse passions and interests, which, in turn, will help create more interest, aspiration and participation from this underrepresented group.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)

Sem Ponnambalam, president of Xahive Inc.

“Financial institutions, VCs and other tech organizations need to understand the significant difference in terms of financing a technology company, the sales cycle and the systemic gender biases women face in terms of seeking financial funding. They must examine and address their current corporate cultures and change their current programs and policies when evaluating women owned businesses when they seek financial assistance at both start-up and scale up phases of their businesses. When there are more women tech entrepreneurs, they will be able to contribute back to the Canadian economy and women tech entrepreneurs should be encouraged to employ more women within the tech sector.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)

Jaime Leverton, general manager of Canada with Cogeco Peer 1

“There’s something seriously wrong with our culture when studies show that girls as young as six can begin to develop the idea that they’re inherently not as good at math as boys. These kind of gender stereotypes are exactly the kind of false expectations that can lead to brilliant young women incorrectly believing they don’t have the aptitude to pursue careers in STEM. That’s why it’s critical to ensure we are fostering interest in math and science among girls from a young age. We must do everything we can to counter negative perceptions of women in STEM that can be found throughout our culture. We need to come together to inspire young women to believe that a degree in STEM is the way of the future, and that they have the power to make their mark in this industry. The great jobs of tomorrow are being created in STEM fields, and if girls aren’t choosing STEM, we will lose out on powerful and important voices in these transformative fields.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)

Claudia Thompson, managing director with Accenture’s health and public service division

“Canada has great potential to engage more women in technology roles, particularly as our successful organizations create a workplace culture in which women and men have equal opportunities for advancement and pay, resulting in an environment where everyone thrives. In fact, our ‘Getting to Equal 2018’ research released for International Women’s Day has identified 14 catalysts to eliminate the gender gap. We grouped these core factors into three categories: bold leadership, comprehensive action and an empowering environment. A leadership team that sets, shares and measure equality targets openly will move the needle. Culture is set from the top, so if women are to rise, gender equality must be a strategic priority for the CEO and management team. People, not programs, make a company inclusive and diverse.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)

Irene Zaguskin, CIO and CTO of Enercare

“When women can see themselves reflected on tech teams and in management positions in technology it reinforces for younger generations that it is possible for them to succeed in tech. But we must also set them up for success from the beginning. We know that women are more likely to apply for jobs when they feel they match most or all of the criteria, whereas men are more likely to apply for jobs where they match some of the criteria. We must re-think job descriptions, the way we structure interviews and be cognizant of who is sitting around the interview table. I also believe that a healthy work-life balance is essential for creating engaged teams – it’s something that has definitely helped to shape my own success. At Enercare, diversity is a key part of our culture and we’ve seen first-hand the positive impact this can have. This isn’t something we talk about – it’s something we live and are always striving to improve.” (Answer courtesy ITAC.)


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Eric Emin Wood
Former IT World Canada associate editor turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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