There are more women in tech than ever before.
Although this is an exciting step forward for what’s typically known as a male-dominated industry, the truth of the matter is, female representation and participation in tech are still lacking significantly.
From events to conferences, awards, and scholarship funds, to early STEM programs and clubs, girls and women are being encouraged, supported and inspired to join the tech industry.
But there is still a long way to go.
Techtalent.ca sat down with Nicole Kelly, Head of Marketing at RBCx, to get her perspective on women in tech and the importance of mentorship in breaking the barriers to growth.
RBCx powers bold ideas, founders, and technology companies by combining four pillars – Banking, Capital, Platform, and Ventures. The company uses its deep expertise to support businesses of all sizes and stages, along with leveraging RBC’s extensive experience, networks, and capital to solve tomorrow’s big problems.
What do you feel are the current barriers to growth for women in tech?
NK: There needs to be more exposure for STEM opportunities among women at a younger age. We’ve been a long-term supporter of organizations such as Hackergal, which has paved the way for providing accessibility to technology education among girls. Despite the push for more women to pursue STEM education, there continues to be a lack of women representation in areas of study such as computer science. We need to have more opportunities in place built into the traditional education system, especially in an era where digital literacy is key.
Once women enter the workforce, they continue to face gender-related barriers that impact their opportunities to showcase their leadership and expertise. The issue is especially prevalent among BIPOC women – there is a tendency to avoid speaking up or present themselves a certain way to mitigate negative impacts to their career progression. However, this can backfire and hinder them from leveraging their full potential to enact tangible change in the business. Organizations need to reinforce the importance of an inclusive culture of support that respects the expertise required of every role, which also mandates constant reeducation and resources.
What do you feel are the current barriers to growth for women founders?
NK: It’s no secret that women receive less venture capital funding compared to men. While women-owned businesses are growing, they’re less represented in the tech industry. Despite their strong business performance, they have to rely on their own funding to push their ideas forward in fields dominated by men. In addition, they’re also underrepresented as partners in venture capital firms, which impacts the likelihood of investment in a women-led startup. There are several organizations, entrepreneurship funds and venture capital firms that focus on supporting women entrepreneurs in Canada, and we need to amplify these spaces to ensure these founders have the full scope of support available to them.
Technology careers also cover more than programming and engineering. From marketing to business development, there are many roles involved in bringing a product or a service to the marketplace. It’s important to note that women founders can come from varying areas of expertise, so we need to expand our notion of what a tech background means.
Why is mentorship important to supporting women in tech?
NK: Mentorship opportunities offer a safe space for women to connect with others, working through personal or professional challenges. For women in tech in different stages of their career, they’re connecting with professionals who have the industry experience to support their needs. These opportunities also reinforce the need for more diverse representation in mentorship programs that can help tackle the existing barriers to growth I previously mentioned. Women mentors understand the unique challenges they face in the tech space, so they can talk through these problems with mentees and empower other women to become future industry leaders.
Tell us about the RBCx Mentor Meetups for Women in Tech program.
NK: RBCx Mentor Meetups for *Women in Tech is a mentorship program that connects women in tech across the industry with our women leaders at RBCx that have diverse areas of expertise, including myself. The program is virtual, launched in April and running until the end of May. Registrants can take a look at the roster of mentors on our website and register for a one-hour mentorship session. When we match mentees, we typically encourage them to come prepared with an area of focus to ensure they get the most out of their session.
Slots are still available for the latter part of May for those that are interested in participating.
Why was it important for RBCx to launch this initiative?
NK: While we’ve seen progress in driving more growth opportunities for women in the industry, they continue to be underrepresented in Canada and at a global scale. In Canada, women make up 23% of the tech industry. Globally, they hold 28% of STEM jobs and secure 2.3% of venture capital. As part of our commitment to power the tech and innovation community in Canada, we want to play a role in building a foundation for women tech professionals and founders to thrive and own their expertise.
Within this space, there are a few names that come to mind for trailblazers in tech who are seen as ideal mentors. We wanted women to have access to other mentorship opportunities, rather than going through the same channels to reach the same people. With that in mind, we felt that it was important to amplify other voices in this space to push more inclusivity for women in tech given the diverse roster of talent and expertise we have at RBCx.
*We recognize that the term “woman” may not encompass the diverse identities of our community. Please note, we welcome and strive to create an inclusive environment for all trans, non-binary, and a gender persons and allies.