Tag Archives: women in identity

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

DIACC Women in Digital Identity

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.