Welcome to Startup of the Week. A column highlighting B.C.’s most innovative and exciting tech startups. Today, we’re featuring Victoria’s Locelle.
If you work in tech, you can’t fail to notice the gender imbalance in your sector. Women account for only 25% of the industry. Victoria-based Locelle was created to help level the playing field in tech and other traditionally male dominated industries. Its goal is to help close the gender gap by supporting employers to retain, engage and advance women in their workplace.
Locelle is a global platform that provides personalized matching with world-class mentors, coaching, professional development and training opportunities for women. It does all the heavy lifting, making it easy for women employees to access the right mentorship for them and to network with female leaders in their field. Women helping women to follow in their footsteps by strengthening leadership skills and confidence not only benefits their employers, but entire sectors at large.
Humaira Ahmed, CEO of Locelle, who has 10-plus years of experience in tech, began by studying computer science at Toronto’s York University, but switched majors after feeling the isolation of being one of few women in her class. Here, Humaira Ahmed talks about how the pandemic has disproportionately affected working women, reflects on the most important quality in a startup, and names a Canadian tech entrepreneur she hugely admires.
Q: In two sentences, explain the main problem your company solves.
A: Locelle offers an employer-funded fully managed career advancement platform. With the goal of fostering a culture of learning and development, we deliver personal and professional development to women at work to attract and retain top talent and develop a diverse leadership pipeline.
Q: Why did you start your company?
A: I started Locelle just over three years ago with the goal of connecting like-minded women so we could navigate challenges and explore opportunities within traditionally-male dominated industries. When COVID19 hit the world, we wanted to provide instant value to women as it was clear that the pandemic affected us disproportionately. We learned that over 85% of women on our app wanted to connect with a female mentor. With that data in hand, we launched our fully managed mentorship platform. It just took off! Our company has had a very positive impact on women’s career development, as well as on employee retention within companies which value diverse talent.
Q: What don’t people know about Locelle that they should?
A: I want people to know that we are a platform dedicated to advancing women at work through 1:1 tailored mentor matching, based on a mentee’s goals and needs. We also hold monthly leaders’ roundtable to help women build leadership competencies. Companies should know we are an employer-funded platform that helps them develop their diverse leadership pipeline for a hard tangible ROI that aligns to their strategic business goals.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: Scalability for one thing, as well as how we can ensure we affect systemic change in creating equitable workplaces for women.
Q: What quality do you think is most important for a startup?
A: The ability to quickly iterate and evolve products/services to serve demand, and be the best at it!
Q: What’s the best advice you recently received?
A: Look at every challenge as a problem-solving opportunity – and have fun doing it. In the startup world, there are so many barriers, so many challenges, and we often forget to have fun.
Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Michelle Romanow. I think what she has done is fantastic – she is changing the world of entrepreneurship with tangible solutions.
For companies looking to develop a diverse leadership pipeline and attract and retain top female talent, consider Locelle’s mentorship platform for women. Locelle has partnered with companies like Metalab, StarFish Medical, Accelerate Atlanta (in partnership with Safe PC/Microsoft) and more.
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