What is the current situation for women in technology in Canada?

Alex HardyName: Alexandra Hardy

Bio: 20 years of experience in the financial industry. Member and regional leader of BDO Canada’s national technology and life sciences group. Has received the CPA Ontario Award of Distinction, which recognizes members who have made an early impact through leadership and achievement in their professional, community and/or personal lives.

What is the current situation for women in technology in Canada?

I think there are still relatively few women in the technology sector. That is the case for almost all roles in the technology industry. In Canada, 25% of the tech workforce are women, which is the fifth highest in the world – a fact that says a lot of about the current situation for women in the industry.

That being said, things are changing for the better. For example, we are starting to see more women coders and founders. At the same time, the positive role models and success stories is helping to further increase interest in the space for women.

Are there specific positive trends in Canada regarding women in technology?

I would point to the fact that the progress we are seeing seems tied to the focus it has received and the different initiatives that have been launched to improve the situation. For example, the Canadian Government launched the Women Entrepreneur Strategy plan last year to encourage more female entrepreneurs, and it seems to be working.

In other words, this is something that we can fix. The technology industry seems to be moving towards being more accepting and supportive of women in senior roles, and the programs provided, such as that discussed above, encourage women to enter the industry.

My personal view is that we especially need is more female founders, which will inspire more women to follow their dream and create their own companies.

In your view, what are strengths that women have when working in the technology industry?

While this is, of course, a massive generalisation, you could argue that men tend to be pragmatic and detail-oriented whereas women perhaps tend towards having a more emotional and holistic view of things.

While that is a point that is arguable, I think everything speaks for the fact that having a more diverse set of skills and backgrounds is good for company. Whether it is in the technology industry or elsewhere.

Within the technology sector, I have been very happy to work with a lot of women founders who are extremely good at taking time to share their insights with women who have just – or are thinking about – starting their own company. The support and willingness to mentor and coach each other is a very strong quality that many women possess. 

What are some of the biggest challenges facing women in technology in Canada?

How difficult it can be to get funding. I think there are still some unconscious biases in certain parts of the financial ecosystem surrounding start-ups and entrepreneurs. For example, since there are relatively few women in venture capital, there can be a lack of understanding of the market and user group for a product or solution pitched by a woman for women. At the same time, women risk being boxed in as good at developing ‘soft’ products and solutions and not, for example, hardware.

What needs to be done to improve the situation?

I would say that making people aware of the statistics regarding women founders and their strong track record, the still relatively low number of women in technology and that having a balanced workforce with regards to gender and diversity is almost invariably a boon.

For example, female founders statistically deliver better revenue return on investments, and companies with better diversity often outperform their competitors with regard to productivity and innovation. Those are weighty arguments that I do not think anyone can really ignore once they are made aware of them.

What would be your advice for women either looking to further their career in technology or looking for a career in technology?

I have a daughter who is actually considering pursuing a career in a STEM field. My advice to her is the same I would give to other young women who are considering a career in technology or other technical industries which are currently dominated by men.

You are going to become part of a growing industry where there are a lot of diverse types of work. You can be an entrepreneur and start your own company or join the staff of an exciting company with many passionate people and continually learn.

However, be aware that it is also likely that you will experience pushback. It will be hard and difficult at times, but when you get to the top you will find it so rewarding. Most of all, it’ll be fun! What better than to be in a growing company which is pushing the boundaries and changing the way we think, a company that embraces out of the box thinking, creative ideas and learning.