Discussions around women in the technology sector have captured the attention of many over the past several years, thanks in part by increased conversations about gender parity in the workforce, and a focused effort on encouraging women to pursue careers in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
According to Girls Who Code, about 74 percent of young girls say they are interested in STEM fields and computer science. However, by the time many females are ready to make career and education decisions, the level of interest has dwindled. TechCrunch reports that women only hold 18 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees and 26 percent of computing jobs — and as for leadership roles, TechCrunch suggests only 5 percent of these positions in tech are held by women.
But, change is happening. A greater number of tech companies are putting gender parity at the forefront of their company’s mandate. Take, for example, Volta Resident, Harbr. Their growing team recently achieved gender balance, as 50 percent of the Harbr team are now women.
Although more work is needed to increase female participation in tech, there has been impressive growth in the quantity and quality of resources and support available for female entrepreneurs and professionals in the industry. Here’s our list of some great resources for women in technology.
The Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology (WinSETT Centre) is a non-profit organization that aims to recruit, retain and advance women in science, engineering, trades and technology.
WinSETT focuses on advancing women’s leadership in the technically skilled workforce through workshops, partnerships with “like-minded organizations”, and promoting and celebrating women’s leadership in science- and technology-based organizations.
The WinSETT Centre offers a series of professional development workshops designed for early to mid-career females in the engineering, science and technology industries. Recently, the WinSETT announced they’re bringing their Leadership Workshop program to Halifax in spring 2018. The series of workshops will cover topics like leadership skills and effective communication, negotiating, emotional intelligence, and more. You can learn about the Halifax workshops and register to participate here.
Women in Science and Engineering for the Atlantic Region (WISEatlantic) is a program run by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada that supports Atlantic Canadian women in the STEM sectors by offering girls access to role models through mentorship, workshops, camps, and videos.
Through WISEatlantic’s camps, junior high and high school girls can learn about science in a fun and hands-on environment with the hopes that they will continue to take an interest in science and engineering as they prepare to enter the workforce. WISEatlantic also supports female professionals through events and workshops with the goal of increasing the career progression and retention of women in STEM-based fields.
In 2016 BDC Capital, the investment arm of the Business Development Bank of Canada, announced a new fund to support technology companies led by women. The fund, which was initially $50 million, has since grew to $70 million, with the Government of Canada recently unveiling plans to increase it to $200 million over the next five years.
According to BDC Capital’s website, the Women in Technology fund the largest non-sector-specific venture capital fund in North America exclusively dedicated to investing in early stage Canadian women-led tech companies. Wondering if your female-led tech company is eligible? Find more information here.
Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) is dedicated to advancing women in broadcasting, cable, telecommunications, digital media and technology through empowering them to achieve professional success, aim higher and be recognized for their accomplishments.
According to WCT’s website, the organizations have 1,500 members across Canada, with regional chapters from coast to coast — including East Coast chapters in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. For more information on WCT’s membership, visit their website here.
SheEO is an organization that aims to radically transform how women-led ventures are financed, supported, and celebrated. The organization’s radical new model to fund female entrepreneurs brings together 500 women they call “Activators” every cohort, who each contribute $1100 as an “Act of Radical Generosity.” In October 2017, SheEO brought radical generosity to Volta for two events. Guests heard from the founder of SheEO-backed Venture The Alinker Inventions Ltd, as well as Karen Furneaux, a Canadian sprint kayaker, three-time Olympian and two-time World Champion.
Women entrepreneurs looking to tap into the SheEO network can sign up to be notified when the 2018 SheEO Venture application opens. For those interested in becoming a SheEO Activator can find more information here.
Canada Learning Code’s Ladies Learning Code program is an ideal resource for women interested in developing their coding and technical skills. The program’s beginner-friendly format is perfect for those who have never coded before, or have very little experience.
According to the program’s website, Adults of all ages and genders can attend Ladies Learning Code workshops, courses and meetups, but they are designed to be a space where women explicitly are welcome to learn. Workshops cover everything from introductory HTML & CSS, to WordPress, Python, Ruby, artificial intelligence, web design and more. Ladies Learning Code events are guided by mentors from the startup community. If you’re in Halifax, check out this upcoming Ladies Learning Code workshop at Volta on February 24, 2018.
The Centre for Women in Business (CWB), recently renamed RBC Centre for Women in Business, supports women entrepreneurs and professionals in all industries through providing training programs, hosting events like their Power Lunch and Women, Business and Breakfast series, as well as offering advisory services.
Housed on Mount Saint Vincent University’s campus, CWB is the only university business resource centre in Canada dedicated to helping women entrepreneurs. Since 1992, CWB has worked with over 13,000 women entrepreneurs and business leaders in the Atlantic region. This past year, CWB launched a new program in partnership with RBC aimed at supporting female student entrepreneurs. The RBC Alliance of Young Women Entrepreneurs was designed to help female students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to launch a successful business. The program offers opportunities to attend networking events, receive funding, and access mentorship. Students in the Alliance can earn learning passport points, meet with professionals for tailored advisory sessions, and receive a CWB membership.
Fierce Founders is a program at Communitech for female founders that is made up of two components: a bootcamp and an accelerator. According to the Fierce Founders website, the Bootcamp a “fast-paced business and personal growth program” for entrepreneurs running a tech or tech-based company with a successfully launched MVP. The program accepts 25 participants, who receive mentorship from experienced business leaders as they develop their business models and refine their product offerings. Entrevestor recently reported that more East Coast startups were successfully entering the bootcamp, with five of the 25 recently announced applicants being from Atlantic Canada.
Based in Waterloo Region, the Fierce Founder Accelerator is located in Canada’s fastest growing tech community, and is designed to give participants the tools necessary to go from MVP to scalable business. The “learn-by-doing” accelerator is six months long and exposes startup teams to nearly everything needed to build a successful company. Startups accepted into the accelerator receive up to $30,000 of fund matching, and one-on-one mentorship form Communitech’s Growth Coaches (that’s $10,000 worth of business training). Participants can receive assistance with setting and reaching milestones, building project plans. developing a sales strategy, preparing for investor presentations, and more. They are also provided with a workspace in the Communitech hub, among other perks.
Many will agree that one of the keys to increasing female participation in tech is to encourage young girls to become and stay interested in STEM fields. That’s why it is important to have organizations like Techsploration.
Techsploration is a not-for-profit organization, developed through a joint initiative between Nova Scotia Community College and the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency. The organization encourages young women in grades nine to 12 to explore science, trades and technology occupations, with a goal of increasing the number of women working in science, trades and technology.
Women Taking Over The World With Tech (WTWT) is a Volta program that supports Atlantic Canadian female founders, leaders, and employees in the technology sector. WTWT aims to help participants finish the year with a new skill, a new mentor, a broader network and more resources to start, launch, or grow their tech startups. This program is not only for entrepreneurs, all women working in tech are welcome.
Since 2016, over 120 women have learned about various topics that include building meaningful connections, negotiating, marketing and sales skills, and more. Between 2016 to 2017, the amount of WTWT events doubled and the program continues to help expand the community of women exploring and prospering in the tech sector.
Interested in getting involved with WTWT? Register here for our upcoming International Women’s Day event, on March 8, 2018, to learn about the importance of finding a co-founder. The event will include a brief keynote given by Sreejata Chatterjee, Co-founder of Leadsift.
Also published on Medium.