Gender parity is a topic often at the forefront of discussion, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers – a field largely dominated by men. While women are making strides in the tech scene, gender equality remains something that needs to be addressed. A recent survey found that over 40 per cent of female students and young professionals do not believe that tech companies really want to hire women or that they know how to develop the skills required for a career in the field.
Fortunately, increasing inclusion and diversity in the workplace are becoming areas of high priority for many organizations.
This message has been reinforced by groups such as Women in Identity (WID), which promotes diversity in the identity industry and held the launch of its Canadian chapter last month in Toronto. With a large crowd of (over 400!) attendees, this event highlights the fact that championing women in the identity industry is picking up steam, and the DIACC is pleased to be a champion of the conversation. The importance of breaking biases and having identity be the focus of plans for digital transformation, is the prevailing message of WID, and we wholeheartedly agree.
International Women’s Day, held on March 8th each year, is a day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and girls, and raises awareness of the work that has yet to be completed.
We reached out to several female DIACC members to find out how more women can be encouraged to pursue careers in tech, and why, ahead of March 8, 2020, diversity and inclusion are of utmost importance. Here, they share their collective insights.
Inclusivity in the workplace
“As women working in and leading in male-dominated industries like digital identity and technology, we have a responsibility to create a path to success for the women coming up behind us,” said Michelle Johnston, Consultant, Government Strategy and Innovation at Equifax Canada Co. This could involve inviting a junior colleague to a meeting, asking her opinion during that meeting, or, where possible, influencing decisions to make the workplace more family-friendly (such as avoiding scheduling meetings after 4:00 pm to accommodate a mother leaving early to pick up her child from daycare).
“There is a saying: “over mentored and under sponsored,” explained Sandra Trenevska, Senior Product Manager at Interac Corp. “Although women are being mentored, not many are advocating for us. We need more men to advocate for us. But for them to address the things that hold us back, we also need to be vocal regarding the challenges that we face.”
The importance of having diversity on teams
Collaboration is at the core of the DIACC’s DNA, as we benefit from the input and involvement of those across a diverse array of backgrounds – and from both the public and private sectors. Why is diversity so important, in a team setting?
Trenevska pointed to the importance of having diversity on teams, as products and services are not serving just one person. “As a product manager, when working with designers and developers, I make sure we use various methods and tools to better our understanding of the product from diverse perspectives,” she explained. “When I facilitate user research and testing, I always strive to have a representative sample of users to ensure we are being inclusive, from more obvious demographics, such as gender, age and ethnicity, to less common ones, such as skills, education, and accessibility.”
Carrie Forbes, Chief Strategy Officer at League Data Ltd., noted that perceptions surrounding the technology industry serves as one of its biggest barriers. “We tend to see a perception of a ‘brogrammer’ culture of young white males in hoodies in a back room, but that’s not what [tech] is at all – today it’s a vast community of skills, including the arts, which is my background,” she said. “Diversity of thinking, skills and experiences are needed in this space more than ever, and we really need women’s influence and points of view to be successful, especially in an area like identity.”
Words of wisdom for future leaders
“Show up and dive in – stay engaged, ask questions, and learn as much as you can,” advised Johnston. “The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it and that engagement and interest will be appreciated by the other women and men around the table.”
“In short, my advice is to be brave and face your fears,” said Trenevska. “Realizing you just did something you never thought you could is one of the best feelings.”
Forbes emphasized trusting your inner voice. “When you see an opportunity that energizes and excites you, don’t screen yourself out, or become disheartened by statistics – ask yourself, ‘why not me?’ – and go for it!”
This International Women’s Day, we want to thank you – our members, our digital identity trailblazers, for your continued commitment and support in driving digital identity forward, in Canada and around the world.