Reflecting on International Women’s Day and what it means to me as a woman and as CEO of BC Tech I found myself curious as to why we picked this particular day, March 8th. With sunny skies and bulbs popping up, not to mention the clocks springing forward this weekend it’s certainly an optimistic and appropriate time of year. But why this date?
Turns out (thanks Google) that the March 8th date has been used since 1913 but the original date was March 19, 1911, chosen because it commemorated the day that the Prussian king promised to introduce votes for women in 1848. A promise which gave hope but which he failed to keep! Perhaps it is just my quixotic sense of humour but kudos to the original organizers for finding such an elegant way to draw attention to the difference between words and action.
My 2020 Resolution
As someone who certainly uses a lot of words but who is really only interested in action I’m trying out a new approach in 2020. My New Year’s resolution is to stop arguing with reality.
Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I’m going to accept reality as it is and go along with the status quo. I’m just as much an agitator for change, innovation, improvement and progress as ever. We all are in Tech! But this year I’m trying to spend less energy fighting roadblocks and barriers and more energy developing and deploying a game plan that works around them. Resistance to change can come from so many different places, but the simplest explanation is usually the best. People can’t embrace the need for change if they don’t have the information that tells them it’s necessary. And they can’t implement change if they don’t know what would work. So in 2020 we are doubling down on our work at BC Tech to research and communicate the facts and to recommend workable solutions.
When we increase diversity in the workplace, we boost our ability to innovate: The best ideas come from groups of individuals who don’t see the world the same way. There’s clear evidence that diverse boards and diverse executive teams deliver better results. And when we developed the BC Tech 2016 Tech Talent BC Report, we found that one key thing holding BC’s tech sector back was access to talent. Yet last summer CBRE surveyed 50 tech ecosystems and Vancouver, with only 18.3% women in the sector, came in dead last. Put those things together and it is clear that if we can attract more women into tech we will help to solve the talent supply challenges that limit growth and build more successful businesses. But how to do it?
Last fall BC Tech launched our #WhatWorks Series: Women in Tech. We ran a whole series of panels and workshops that focused on what is working rather than what isn’t. We asked over 60 successful local tech companies to tell us what they are doing in their businesses. What worked – a total of 15 actionable ideas – can be found on our website. If you want to move the needle on gender equity in tech I challenge you to experiment with one or two of these ideas and then share your experience with others.
We’ve also embedded the drive for gender equity into other BC Tech programming – we run courses on Negotiation, Public Speaking and Managing your Career – topics women have told us they particularly value. And we’ve launched our HyperTalent program, a key part of which is professional development days for K-12 teachers that demystify tech trends and what a career in tech is really like (spoiler alert: creative problem solvers collaboratively tackling important global problems). Feedback from teachers from Vancouver to Nakusp is that now they’re equipped with information and communication tools they feel 100% more confident talking tech in their classrooms and 1000% more enthusiastic about recommending a career in tech.
At BC Tech we’re also modelling the change we want to see in tech, committing to doubling the number of women on the BC Tech Board at our next AGM in October. And next week we have a really fun event happening – a panel that is a ‘manel’, all men. But this ‘manel’ is deliberate. We’ve asked men who identify as allies in the push for gender equity and diversity and inclusion to tell us why it’s so important to them and what they do to show up as allies in the workplace.
Please join us – especially if you’re a man. We need to spread the word about #whatworks far and wide to see the change we want to see in BC.
There’s lots more to do and many more programs ahead. Let’s make sure that there’s always action following the words.