Equal­ity a win for ev­ery­one

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - Canada/world - Stephen Bald­win

Michelle Obama chal­lenged tech lead­ers to make sac­ri­fices for the sake of gen­der equal­ity last week dur­ing Dream­force, one of the world’s big­gest tech con­fer­ences.

“If we’re not will­ing to share the power,” Obama said, “and maybe step down from a seat or cre­ate more seats at the ta­ble, if we’re not just hoard­ing seats and think­ing it’s all mine mine mine mine mine, un­til we do that, then it won’t change.”

The num­bers show a clear prob­lem. In 2016, women made up only 23 per cent of sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics jobs world­wide, ac­cord­ing to Linkedin.

But, if one thing was clear at the San Fran­cisco gath­er­ing, it’s that the tech world is un­der­go­ing a much-needed shakeup. Eq­uity and di­ver­sity have gone from buzz­words to core val­ues. Com­pa­nies, and the women within them, are re­al­iz­ing their power — and mak­ing changes.

This is how four Cana­dian tech com­pa­nies are tak­ing new ap­proaches to gen­der equal­ity:

Shopify Prob­lem: Ar­chaic, male­dom­i­nated co-op pro­grams So­lu­tion: A new bach­e­lor of com­puter sci­ence pro­gram

Find­ing that Canada’s tech­ni­cal co-op pro­grams haven’t changed in more than 50 years, Shopify was in­spired to part­ner with Car­leton Univer­sity in its home­town of Ot­tawa on an in­clu­sive, ex­pe­ri­en­tial bach­e­lor of sci­ence pro­gram.

The pro­gram has stu­dents


earn a salary while split­ting their time be­tween school and the Shopify head­quar­ters.

Af­ter chang­ing the lan­guage in the ap­pli­ca­tion to en­cour­age more women to ap­ply, the first co­hort in­cluded six women and five men. The next had six women and eight men.

Hoot­suite Prob­lem: bi­ases

So­lu­tion: Top-down ed­u­ca­tion

The Van­cou­ver-based so­cial­me­dia man­age­ment com­pany has a multi-year plan in place that in­cludes ed­u­ca­tion on un­con­scious bias, which many of the com­pany’s se­niors lead­ers have al­ready un­der­gone.

Hoot­suite also do­nates to and hosts women-in-tech ini­tia­tives, such as Girls Learn­ing Code, and re­cently added two fe­male tech ge­niuses to its board: long­time


Un­con­scious ex­ec­u­tive Sara Cle­mens and Broad­bandtv CEO Shahrzad Rafati.

Broad­bandtv Prob­lem: The gen­der pay gap

So­lu­tion: Quar­terly re­views

Led by founder and CEO Shahrzad Rafati, the Van­cou­ver-based dig­i­tal-en­ter­tain­ment com­pany has taken an ag­gres­sive ap­proach to en­sur­ing equal pay for equal work.

The com­pany mon­i­tors pay quar­terly, re­sult­ing in a dis­par­ity of less than 2 per cent. It also has more women in man­age­ment po­si­tions (46 per cent) than the na­tional av­er­age (39 per cent).


Dot Health Prob­lem:

So­lu­tion: “No A--holes” Dot Health’s CEO, Huda


Closet dis­crim­i­na­tors Huda Idrees, Dot Health’s CEO, has been re­ferred to as both a prodigy and a jug­ger­naut in Toronto’s tech scene.

Idrees, has been re­ferred to as both a prodigy and a jug­ger­naut in Toronto’s tech scene. Idrees was re­cently the chief prod­uct of­fi­cer at Wealth­sim­ple, one of Toronto’s hottest tech com­pa­nies, and now heads Dot Health, which of­fers pa­tients se­cure and easy ac­cess to their health records.

The com­pany, launched in Fe­bru­ary, em­ploys nine women and one man and proudly boasts a “No A--holes” rule.

This means hav­ing po­ten­tial em­ploy­ees work with the com­pany for a few weeks so they can un­cover any dis­crim­i­na­tory be­hav­iour.

“It’s hard to hide that for an hour or a day,” Idrees said, “but even harder to hide it for weeks.” Dot Health also seeks equal gen­der rep­re­sen­ta­tion in its ven­dors, whether it’s an ac­count­ing firm or a law firm. The im­por­tance of equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and equal pay in tech took cen­tre stage at Dream­force.

Thought lead­ers like Michelle Obama, Natalie Port­man, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and the con­fer­ence’s host, Sales­force CEO Marc Be­nioff, made it clear that it’s about more than strik­ing a bal­ance; it’s crit­i­cal to a com­pany’s suc­cess.

Sales­force is among thou­sands of tech com­pa­nies suf­fer­ing from a lack of di­ver­sity, specif­i­cally when it comes to gen­der.

While the U.s.-based cloud-com­put­ing com­pany’s tech di­vi­sion is made up of 77 per cent men, many of them in Canada, the com­pany is try­ing to im­prove.

Sales­force has spent $6 mil­lion over the past four years to bal­ance wages among men and women work­ing in the same roles, ac­cord­ing to chief equal­ity of­fi­cer Tony Prophet.

Chief peo­ple per­son Cindy Rob­bins said other ef­forts in­clude: fund­ing pro­grams around the world that en­cour­age girls and women to pur­sue STEM ca­reers; a com­mit­ment to weed­ing out bias in re­cruit­ing, hir­ing and pro­mot­ing pro­cesses; do­nat­ing prod­ucts and profit to NGOS pro­mot­ing women in tech; and mak­ing equal­ity a fo­cus of their an­nual con­fer­ence, which this year hosted more than 170,000 peo­ple.

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