Driving Women in Tech World

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Driving Women in Tech World met Mischka Jacobs when we stopped by Venn Innovation in Moncton.  She is Venn’s Communications & Events Coordinator, and she interviewed us. We were thrilled when she sent us this blog post. Thanks Mischka!

Have you ever wished for an adventure, or for the courage to go after a crazy opportunity? These three ladies either quit or put their jobs on hold so they could to dedicate themselves to a 10-week, cross-country RV road trip. They volunteered their time, gave voice to hundreds of women and, in exchange, got the adventure of a lifetime.

Two years ago, Women in Tech Week was only a week of personal development where women could tell their stories and build a community. At the end, $50 000 in scholarships were given across the country to women in coding programs and various organizations. Today, thanks to these ladies and a crew of 80+ dedicated Women in Tech World volunteers, it has become so much more.

Why do you feel like this initiative is important?

We don’t think women’s stories are being told. StatCan, for example, provides quantitative data, but that doesn’t capture women’s experiences. A lot of women want their voices heard. We want to understand the situation, understand what’s happening in the tech community and figure out the best ways or practices to improve it. So far, we’ve spoken to 700 people, both women and men.

Check out our video

What are you focusing on in your research?

We’re approaching women in tech and non-tech roles, and asking three core questions:

  1. Who are women in tech?
  2. What are the things they are experiencing? What are the barriers, challenges and successes?
  3. What new ideas and best practices can we identify and implement in Canada to ensure future generational success?

Have you figured out some of those best practices yet?

Primarily, we need to connect the network of resources that already exist. We need to raise awareness about each other, so that everyone in the tech space know what the formal resources are, where to find them, who to talk to. We’ve also identified mentorship as a key missing part in the ecosystem.

Why did you put “women” in the title of your organization?

The reason we include the word is to create a safe space for women to share their experiences. We want them to identify easily with us. We want to see them participate more in events and in the tech community overall. We want to build their confidence. A lot of women who run their own business in this space don’t necessarily consider themselves as women in tech. A lot of women that we contacted in the beginning felt like they couldn’t contribute because they had taught themselves how to code, they hadn’t received any formal or official training and didn’t have much to offer. A lot of women don’t see themselves as belonging to this space, and we’d like to change that.

Are you nervous that this initiative will make men feel excluded?

For us it’s extremely important to bring men into the conversation. Their opinion matters, and we make sure all of our events are inclusive. At a Women’s Pitch Night, held in partnership with Volition (www.VolitionAdvisors.com), we had about 18 companies and 100 women come to the event. Their companies and pitches were incredible, but what was really interesting was what we saw at the following Women’s Pitch Night events. The audience was about 50/50 men and women. Men who attended came up to Melanie to thank her for the event, commenting that they hadn’t realized how “badass”, supportive and action-oriented women in tech are. One man remarked, “these women really just get sh*t done – it’s amazing. I think I’m going to have to start hiring more women!”

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to deal with so far?

Women’s belief that they shouldn’t be singled out. Often, they tell us, they just want to get on with it and do a good job.

What are you hoping to achieve?

We want to change the stereotypes of computer science and the roles you can have with that degree. A lot of high school girls don’t think this a field they should be considering, but tech is a booming sector. It’s infiltrating all industries and women should consciously and unconsciously allow themselves the chance to work in this space. Our ultimate goal, though, is to not be needed in the long term, and I think through this journey, we’re able to effect positive change.

Brief biographies follow – if you’d like to know more about Women in Tech World, visit us here.

Alicia Close has a strong background in data analysis and business. While working in the tech space for the past seven years, Alicia realized that there was a gap in Canadian data on women in tech; while we have quantitative data from the 2011 StatCan survey and anecdotal evidence from the US on the state of women in tech, we were missing a large scale qualitative data set on what women in tech in Canada are experiencing. She felt there was a strong need to understand the current situation, so launched Driving WinTech, a Canada-wide community-based research tour. Her vision was to take a community first approach to action planning, working with community partners and networks to record the stories of women across the country.

Melanie Ewan worked in the government for 10 years before moving to the startup and tech space. She has a degree in Health Science, with a focus on community-based research. She’s always loved working with people, helping them achieve their goals and highlighting the unheard and underheard voices in our community. She fell in love with entrepreneurship and tech for it’s action oriented and innovative approach to problem solving. Melanie joined Women in Tech World in January 2017; she is the COO and Head of Research.

After having spent some time working in Ireland, Sarah McCarthy joined the team in April, when Ali and Mel realized just how much work it would entail to hear all those stories, engage in conversation and record all their findings. Sarah saw this as an amazing opportunity while she figured out what she’ll do next.