According to a new report from BMO Capital Markets, the tech industry in the Greater Toronto Area has grown by more than 50% in the past five years. Toronto has quickly become the fourth-largest tech hub in North America. Because of this, many global companies such as Amazon, Pinterest and Shopify have chosen to intensify their Canadian presence by setting up shop in Toronto. Additionally, the growth and support within the city’s tech ecosystem has helped several startups flourish.
Despite this growing success, many people still face challenges within the tech industry. Women are consistently underrepresented in senior leadership positions, and it is difficult for women to advance in this historically male-dominated industry. According to #MoveTheDial and PwC’s 2017 Benchmark Report, on average only 5% of Canadian tech companies have a female CEO. The report also highlights that when a company has a female CEO, there is a dramatic increase in the per cent of female executives and board members at the company. In Toronto, there are many women who are challenging and redefining existing industry standards. Here are three women that are making major strides in Toronto’s tech landscape.
#1. Huda Idrees: Founder and CEO, Dot Health
Huda Idrees is the founder of Dot Health, a mobile application that allows Canadians to access their personal health records and information from anywhere, at any time. The idea for Dot Health started after Idrees helped her friend’s dad visualise his complicated health records. He had been diagnosed with late-stage cancer, and Idrees was able to aggregate a trend line that showed him his medical progress week by week. Since then, Idrees has been building Dot Health in hopes of transforming how Canadians access their personal health records.
Idrees was born and raised in Saudi Arabia and came to Canada to study Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto. She advanced in the tech industry by working as a User Experience (UX) Designer and Product Designer for several Toronto startups, including Wettpad, Wave and Wealthsimple. Aside from founding Dot Health, Idrees is passionate about skydiving. She has her solo license, meaning she can dive on her own almost anywhere in the world. In a recent interview with The Globe and Mail, Idrees reported that she has completed approximately 67 skydives to date.
#2. Jodi Kovitz: Founder and CEO, #MoveTheDial
Jodi Kovitz is the founder and CEO of #MoveTheDial, a global movement that is creating solutions that increase the participation and leadership of women in tech. In numerous interviews, Kovitz stresses that “when we don’t have great women leaders, we miss out on opportunities to collaborate, to bring diverse viewpoints to the table, to address the sector’s growing talent gap and to create technologies that serve the needs of everyone.” In order to address the underrepresentation of women in tech, #MoveTheDial partners with leading organisations to host conferences, networking events and workshops that help young women develop their professional skills, personal network and confidence. Although #MoveTheDial is primarily focused on supporting women in tech, the team believes that every form of diversity and inclusion is important. This includes accessibility, gender, LGBTQ and racial equality among teams and companies. #MoveTheDial’s 2017 Benchmark Report notes that “by moving the dial for women, we aspire to move the dial for all people who are currently a minority in tech.”
Kovitz has many notable accomplishments including being named as one of Canada’s Top 25 Most Powerful Women by Women of Influence. She also serves on the SickKids Foundation Capital Campaign Cabinet and is working to raise $25 million for SickKids Hospital to ensure that future generations of children receive top quality healthcare. Outside of her professional accomplishments, Kovitz is a single mother to her 10-year-old daughter, Lily.
#3. Eva Wong: Co-Founder and COO, Borrowell
Eva Wong is the Co-Founder and COO of Borrowell, a financial tech company that is on a mission to help Canadians make smarter decisions about credit. They achieve this by providing Canadians with free online credit scores, credit reports, and tailored recommendations that help clients manage their debt and ultimately improve their financial well-being. In an interview with Elevate, Wong explained that she had many informal touchpoints with tech before securing an executive position at Borrowell. Wong studied Business at Queen’s University and held many tech-related positions while she was completing her undergraduate degree. She worked at CIBC in the Tech Process Engineering division, and for Queen’s University as a Database Developer. After university, Wong worked as a Management Consultant alongside several top executives in the tech industry. When asked to reflect on the principle of diversity, Wong explained that it is one of Borrowell’s core beliefs, and is heavily engrained in the team’s culture. Wong said, “what I love about diversity is its potential. We can accomplish so much and Toronto can take a global leading role in leveraging the potential of diversity.” One of Wong’s major goals for Borrowell is to reach gender balance. Currently, 40% of the Borrowell team identifies as female.
These women are strong role models and are working tirelessly to inspire positive change in the Toronto tech ecosystem. They all share powerful insights that speak to the importance of self-confidence, diversity, passion and inclusion. They are championing what it means to be innovative, and are paving the way for the next generation of Canadian women to follow.
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