Tag Archives: inclusion

DIACC Women in ID: Government Services

To build Canada’s digital future, every Canadian needs a seat at the table. DIACC is fortunate to have members from both the public and private sectors, all of whom are working together at the forefront of digital identity. 

We’re connecting with DIACC member Women in Identity to learn how they have navigated industry challenges and get career advice for the next generation. In this article, we hear perspectives from British Columbia (BC) to New Brunswick and in between. These are some of the leaders who are shaping service delivery for Canadians, and driving change across the industry.

Molding Young Minds 

There is a gender divide within the tech sector – in Canada and beyond. How can we encourage more young women to pursue these careers? 

More emphasis on competencies required rather than the technical infrastructure could help, Sophia Howse, Executive Director, BC’s Provincial Identity Information Management Program with the Province of BC, explained. “If we could communicate how skills such as leadership, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving can be applied in the space, then I feel we would attract more interest from women.” 

CJ Ritchie, Associate Deputy Minister and Government Chief Information Officer for the Province of BC, and member of the DIACC Board of Directors, noted that it’s important to adapt leadership styles to industry contexts and to individual team members. “Mature leaders don’t try to manage everybody or manage everybody the same. Make room for specificity and diversity and bring on a team that’s smarter than you. Don’t be afraid to not be the smartest person in the room – it’s a sign you’re doing it right.”

“Make room for specificity and diversity and bring on a team that’s smarter than you. Don’t be afraid to not be the smartest person in the room – it’s a sign you’re doing it right.”

CJ Ritchie, Associate Deputy Minister and Government Chief Information Officer for the Province of BC

Sharing sector opportunities with young women during school years is key, emphasized Colleen Boldon, Director, Digital Lab and Digital ID Programs, Public Services and Smart Government at Service New Brunswick, and member of the DIACC Board of Directors. “Women need mentors, career advancement opportunities and meaningful work,” she said. “I think the one distinction that still exists today is that men more often ask for help and advancement opportunities, while women are more inclined to try to do things on their own, take another course and hope that someone notices their work and promotes them.” 

Kathleen Fraser, Manager of Digital Identity for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, echoed the need for a broader view of what it means to work in tech that demonstrates the difference it can make in the lives of Canadians. She explained, “For myself, I take great pride in the work I do because I feel a great desire to make a difference in people’s lives and for the clients who are interacting with us.”

“Saying ‘yes’ to complex assignments and being comfortable in the ‘not knowing’ space offers a challenging work environment that can pave the way to a very challenging and rewarding career”

Sophia Howse, Executive Director, BC’s Provincial Identity Information Management Program with the Province of BC

Women Encouraging Women

Technology doesn’t have to be intimidating or highly technical, pointed out Cosanna Preston-Idedia, Director of Digital Identity for the Government of Saskatchewan. “Whoever you are, dig into your passions and spend time understanding how tech is impacting, shaping and changing that space,” she said. “If the actual technical details are not for you, look to the concepts, outcomes and impacts that it has to offer.”

To help other women achieve a more prominent role in their organizations, she emphasized taking time to lift others up. This could involve concluding meetings with a roundtable discussion, serving as a mentor or coach, and offering public praise and private feedback. 

“Whoever you are, dig into your passions and spend time understanding how tech is impacting, shaping and changing that space.”

Cosanna Preston-Idedia, Director of Digital Identity for the Government of Saskatchewan.

Drawing inspiration from her own mentors, Fraser believes a growth mindset and community as essential for success. “Never stop learning and build a network of people with a similar vision,” she said. “The kind of work we’re doing right now cannot be done in a silo. It has to be done in collaboration with other people.”

Howse advises becoming more comfortable with the unknown. “I have learned that saying ‘yes’ to complex assignments and being comfortable in the ‘not knowing’ space offers a challenging work environment that can pave the way to a very challenging and rewarding career,” she said. For instance, encouraging team members to present their work to a larger audience boosts confidence and builds profile. 

In Ritchie’s experience, understanding how to attenuate her leadership style to the culture she found herself in became a source of strength. “It was a turning point learning to use that to my advantage rather than letting it be a barrier to me,” she explained. Differences in how she was perceived in new roles and industries became less personal. “Learning that that was an external force that had nothing to do with me and attenuating my style to have a better impact on my reputation and corporate currency,” she said. 

“For myself, I take great pride in the work I do because I feel a great desire to make a difference in people’s lives and for the clients who are interacting with us.”

Kathleen Fraser, Manager of Digital Identity for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada,

Challenges and the Road Ahead

“There are more CEOs today named John than there are female CEOs. That should tell you something,” Ritchie reflected on the state of the landscape. “Snapshots in time can fool you into thinking we’ve made progress – but I’m not sure that’s true.” 

To get ahead and persevere, even when often one of the only women in the room, Fraser focuses on the huge potential for change. “I think you need to have passion and a sense of leadership that allows you to be a disruptor,” she explains. “That is what we’re doing – we’re disruptors in the space when we look at new ways of doing things. When you have conviction in your vision… you don’t stop at the first sign of failure.” 

Boldon chooses to focus on the things she can control – her work and the challenge ahead. ”My story looks very similar to other woman who chose non-traditional careers for our generation, and experienced discrimination and setbacks, while pushing career and societal boundaries on what a good wife and mother should be,” she said. 

Her advice? “Enjoy the ride. There are more opportunities for women in IT [Information Technology] than ever before and it is an ever-evolving, fascinating sector where you can find meaningful work, wonderful colleagues and a great career.”

“Enjoy the ride. There are more opportunities for women in IT than ever before and it is an ever-evolving, fascinating sector where you can find meaningful work, wonderful colleagues and a great career.”

Colleen Boldon, Director, Digital Lab and Digital ID Programs, Public Services and Smart Government at Service New Brunswick

Do not fear the words technical or technology, added Howse. Understand your skillset and lean into your strengths, all while continuing to develop yourself. 

Ritchie agrees that diving in and going for your goals is important, especially as women are more likely to limit themselves to roles and opportunities they believe they are 100 per cent qualified for. “Don’t feel you need to have it all figured out,” she shared. “You can build the bridge as you walk on it. You only need to know the next right step to take… You’re capable of far more than you think.”

Meet more leading female DIACC members in digital identity