1. Advocate for Yourself
During the fireside chat, Diverse and Inclusive Technologies- Is This a Reality Today?, panelists discussed the frequent and inherent biases within AI, specifically around gender and ethnicity. Within the tech industry, it’s important for underrepresented groups to advocate for themselves to ensure they are getting an appropriate share of voice. As one speaker put it, “everyone has the right to put their hand up” and ask for what they want. Anna Foat, Global Digital Transformation Office Director at Sun Life Financial, highlighted the importance of forming supportive groups to ensure all voices are heard. “There’s a boys’ club, so why not start a girl gang?”
It’s also crucial for women to face a common fear of feeling unqualified for a particular role or promotion. In a recent Forbes study, it was stated that men on average will apply for jobs in which they feel they are 60% qualified, whereas women will only apply for jobs in which they meet 100% of the qualifications.
2. Leverage the Diversity in your Team
In Leveraging Diversity for Greater Innovation, attendees heard from industry leaders on the importance of building diverse teams. Teams with a variety of skillsets, backgrounds and experiences are proven to perform better. Dionne Schmidt, Head of Technology Agility at Thomson Reuters, spoke about setting up an environment that allows for healthy conflict from a diversity of perspectives where team goals and norms are shared. Encouraging team diversity will boost the strength of a team and make all members feel important and valued. Rani Pendse, Senior Partner Development Manager at Microsoft summarised this as, “You go where you’re invited but you stay where you belong.”
3. Identify Mentors and Sponsors
A discussion entitled, Identifying Mentors That Will Support and Sponsor Your Advancement drew mixed opinions. A mentor can provide helpful support and guidance, whereas a sponsor takes action to advocate on your behalf when you’re not in the room. Some panelists spoke about the importance of a mentor or sponsor in their career development, while other speakers and audience members stated that they were able to build an exciting and rewarding career without that level of support. Both groups highlighted the importance of identifying whether it is a mentor or sponsor you are looking for, as well as your goals for the relationship. According to one panelist, the average mentoring relationship lasts just over three years, therefore it’s important to choose a mentor or sponsor who can provide the right kind of support to help you reach your goals.
4. Give Back
The concluding discussion of the day centred around the importance of helping the next generation to succeed. In Using Your Professional Success to Give Back, panelists conversed about how they are working to increase digital literacy. Julia Blackburn, CEO of Npower Canada, spoke about the importance of recognizing the inherent differences in gender when encouraging participation in STEM subjects. While male students are often eager to get involved, female students can show hesitation and often require extra encouragement. Showcasing strong female IT leaders to young women can encourage them to seek a career in tech, moving the industry towards achieving gender balance in the next generation.
The Women in IT Canada Awards and Summit was an insightful opportunity to hear from industry leaders on how they built rewarding careers. These key takeaways not only provided practical tips to attendees, but helped to inspire the next generation of IT talent. FDM was honoured to be shortlisted for two awards as we are dedicated to helping to advance the careers of women within the tech industry. Our Women in Tech initiative strives to make IT a more female-friendly career choice and we excited to continue our work towards creating a more gender-balanced workforce.