Ottawa – Today at the Toronto Stock Exchange representatives from the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance Women in Technology Forum (CATA WIT) were on hand to open the markets. The event marks the launch of a CATA WIT initiative promoting employer best practices and a web site designed to attract women to science and technology careers.
The program takes a three-pronged approach to address inequalities in women’s participation in science and advanced technology by focusing on ways to support recruitment, retention and entrepreneurialism. The program was undertaken with the support Status of Women Canada, Ontario Women’s Directorate and a number of corporate partners.
Working with CATA WIT, Dr. Wendy Cukier, founder of Ryerson’s Diversity Institute and Technology Strategy Consultant organized workshops with women across the country to explore their experiences and to take a fresh look at women in Canada’s high tech sector. Over 50 women from all stages of their careers met for roundtables in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and Calgary, and 250 women were surveyed online. Discussions were also held with Human Resources professionals and executives in a number of technology companies to explore leading practices on diversity and develop tools to promote the importance of diversity.
The findings and recommendations will be published in a report entitled Retaining and Promoting Women: Best Practices in the Canadian Tech Sector 2009. The report provides an analysis of the barriers to women’s participation in five science and technology sectors in Canada: Information Communications Technology (ICT); Biotechnology, Energy, Aerospace and Defence. In addition to the survey and roundtables, the study examines the best practices from some of Canada’s top employers and provides guidelines and tools to help other companies better identify, retain and promote female talent.
“Talking to women across the country, it’s clear that female participation has not improved substantially over the last two decades,” said Joanne Stanley, managing director, CATA WIT. “And the issues go beyond workplace challenges, to the training pipeline, where female enrolment in many technology-related disciplines is declining.”
Global research suggests that addressing the problem requires an integrated approach that starts young, when girls’ self concepts and aspirations are formed. To address this, CATA WIT has launched a new web destination designed specifically for girls and young women, with a focus on educating them about careers in advanced technology and providing access to mentors – women who have been successful in these types of careers. Built with partners Helix Commerce and IGLOO, the site was designed and developed with input from girls in the target demographic. TechnoCompetences in Quebec and PartnersInc. will provide ongoing community management of www.bringITon.ca.
Through the site, and in-school posters and outreach campaigns, CATA WIT is working to reach Grade 10 girls – just before they make decisions about their course selection. The goal is to convince them to continue with math, science and computer science.
To help more women connect with careers in technology, the web site will provide a series of informative case studies of successful women leading technology companies. Their challenges and strategies for success as women entrepreneurs and CEO’s starting and growing tech companies is captured in a report written by Dr. Barbara J Orser, Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa entitled Showcasing Women’s Leadership in Canada’s Advanced Technology Sectors: Strategies to Grow Canadian Technology-based Firms.
Professional development workshops organized by CATA WIT in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver provided 150 women with training on leadership skills including presentation and negotiation skills and strategies for career advancement. A series of webinars will be held starting in December to promote strategies and best practices for advancing women and starting technology companies.