Embracing my inner “Geekess”

Hands with technology puzzleGeekess, geek-diva…a contradiction in terms? Nope, just a new way of looking at the intelligent, inspiring women of Canada’s tech sector.

Perhaps it’s because of my tenure in an arts-based career, or because my math/science education seems like a long (intentionally) forgotten aspect of my life…but I realized recently that I really haven’t been paying attention to the important dialogue and debate concerning women in technology-focused careers.

On January 15, I had the opportunity to attend a pub night hosted by Women Powering Technology (WPT) Waterloo. I signed up through Facebook and started to get nervous when I read the event description: “we want to hear your story about how you power technology.” I like stories, but I struggled to figure out what I might say if I worked up enough nerve…which I didn’t. Instead, I listened – as one professional woman after another shared about how they power technology and how technology is a part of their business and personal lives.

There was a lot of pride and passion in the stories that women shared. We heard from product marketers, project managers, programmers, accountants, consultants, and some who defined themselves as “users” (like me) more than “power-ers”. I also heard how frustrating the tech-sector can be for women, even in our relatively progressive society.

What resonated with me the most about WPT is that the women were so obviously supportive of each other and newbies (like me). I left the event feeling a heck of a lot smarter (being surrounded by so many talented women can have that effect), and better-informed about the challenges and opportunities facing this group.

Since I’m in learning mode, I thought I’d share a few points that I took away from the event, in addition to what I found as I searched for more information:

  • Women make up 30% of Canada’s tech sector workforce – there’s clearly room to grow.
  • With the strong communication and relationship skills that women bring to the table, women in technology are well-poised to drive and support advancements that overlap technology and communications.
  • Work is being done to increase mentoring for young women at the college/university level – we also need to pay more attention to educating and removing social barriers and constraints for girls AND boys at the primary level. This is where the ideas about what a girl or boy can/can’t, should/shouldn’t do take root…long before they need to make conscious career choices.
  • According to a November 2010 report from Natural Sciences and Engineering, Research Council of Canada, girls and boys are relatively on par at a young age when it comes to math skills, and girls scored higher on test results for reading skills. However, I also read that girls seem to believe that math skills come naturally and aren’t necessarily something they can develop.
  • A change in how women are treated in the tech sector will involve forward-thinking men, as well as women, taking a stand through conscious decisions when it comes to mentoring, promoting and hiring for tech roles.

From the perspective of a new mom, my hope is that the education system will be a gender-equalizer rather than a peg-fitter, by the time my kids are in school. I want them to feel that they have every career option open to them, and that the primary determining factor will be their own motivation. Through listening to the stories shared at WPT, I’m also much more keenly aware of some of the nuances and subtle messages that might be directed at my daughter and son. My husband and I can start thinking now about how we’ll flush these ideas out so that our kids are not burdened or constrained by antiquated notions about gender that, in my opinion, should already be long forgotten.

It’s encouraging to know that there are thought-leaders such as WPT that will be working to advocate for positive changes in education and the workforce, and helping to shape a female-friendly technology career path.

Many thanks to the Women Powering Technology Waterloo event organizers – Angelique Mohring, Karen Cecile and Julia Rosien. Also, thanks to the other group members who spoke so eloquently and openly about their perspectives. To find out more about WPT, check out Women Powering Technology on Facebook and Women Powering Technology-Waterloo on LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Interesting read. Thank you for sharing about the meeting.

  2. Great summary, Roshan. It was an interesting event and one I look forward to attending more of in the future.

    • Thanks, Paula! It was really nice to see you there, and have a chance to catch up a little. I think WPT Waterloo is going to be a really dynamic group, and I’m looking forward to the next event, too! See you again soon!

  3. It was wonderful to meet you, and kudos on this great post as well.

    • Thanks, Lisa! And, thank you for sharing at the event – your story really helped me identify with the group, and understand how I’m part of “powering technology” by being a “user” and working with tech for my businesses. I appreciate you chatting with me after the event, too. See you next time!

  4. Hey Roshan!! This is a great summary! It was a great event and I really enjoyed meeting you – you are very inspiring with all that you have accomplished and I’m glad you came out to the WPT night!! Really hope to see you again at more events!

    • Hey Krista! Thanks for letting me take the chair beside you at pub night 🙂 It was so nice to talk to you and find out more about what you do! Hopefully see you at the next event! Have a great weekend!

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