Opinion: Opening the door to technology for the next generation of women

Nov 9 2018, 10:54 pm

Written for Daily Hive by Alicia Close, Founder & CEO, Women in Tech World

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Vancouver has become home to some of the world’s largest clusters for visual effects, animation, and virtual/augmented/mixed reality. We are now widely recognized as a tech hub, with three of Canada’s $1B unicorns (Avigilon, Hootsuite and Slack) calling Vancouver home.

There is no question that our technology industry is hot. It is one of the fastest growing sectors in our province with more than 83,400 tech-related job openings expected by 2027.

However, despite this growth of opportunity in B.C., there are systemic barriers for women and girls limiting their participation in the industry. According to Canada’s Gender Equity Roadmap: A Study of Women in Tech, a recent report released by Women in Tech World, girls continue to be told within the elementary and secondary school system that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses are too difficult or that it’s not a good place for them.

There are a variety of worrying stats for women in tech. According to the Minerva Foundation’s BC Tech Scorecard, women in tech represent 20% of the workforce and fill 23% of senior executive management positions — only three out of a basket of 25 Vancouver tech companies are women-led. These stats are consistent with what is reported in tech communities right across the country.

Without women in Vancouver’s tech space, the industry lacks the diversity of perspective and skill-set that are essential for growth and a foundation for good business. Women advocacy groups like the Minerva BC, Female Funders, Women in Games and GIRLsmarts4tech, as well as a growing number of women-driven mentorship and networking opportunities led by industry groups like the BC Tech Association, are addressing this gap.

According to Jill Tipping, President and CEO of the BC Tech Association, for B.C. to be the best place to grow a tech company, the province needs to be an appealing and welcoming industry for everyone. We need a diverse and inclusive ecosystem that will attract a new generation of talented and passionate leaders.

For the third year in a row, Doors Open to Technology (DOT) is bringing together passionate leaders in the technology space to expose B.C. high school students to the immense career opportunities awaiting them in B.C.’s fastest growing sector. At the first of three events happening this school year, DOT recently brought together more than 100 young women in grades 10 to 12 with the specific aim of closing this gender gap in its early stages.

The students heard from women leaders at Microsoft Vancouver and Sony Pictures Imageworks Canada and toured the office spaces of some of Vancouver’s most sought-after tech employers. The hosts hope the experience will inspire and encourage girls to consider an entry program into STEM or a career they may not have considered.

Collectively, we need to encourage more opportunities to stand up, lean in and open doors to make tech workplaces inviting, inclusive and diverse for the next generation. B.C’s tech industry is filled with women and men at all levels within an organization who put their hand up. Why not you?

Programs like DOT serve to inspire young women to see a bit of themselves in the women leaders standing before them. You can’t be what you can’t see. It’s up to us to take the lead in creating a new and more diverse workforce. It starts with education, training and awareness–opening the door to technology for the next generation of women. Let’s get creative in the process.

Doors Open to Technology was delivered in partnership between the Government of British Columbia, BC Hydro, SAP, Microsoft Vancouver, Absolute Software, Sony Pictures Imageworks Canada, True Calling, NATIONAL PR and Graphic Impressions. Upcoming events will take place in Victoria on Feb 5, 2019 and in Vancouver on April 24 & 25, 2019.

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