Study finds gender disparity in Canadian tech

 Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Jessica Ng

A recent study examined the current position of women in Canadian tech and innovation, aiming to draw attention to the disparity between men and women in the industry. Research has found companies who have women represented on executive teams perform better. Despite this, only 13 percent of tech companies’ executive teams comprise of women.

“Where’s the Dial Now”, co-authored by #movethedial, MaRS, and PwC Canada, presents an analysis of 933 Canadian tech companies and highlights a significant gender gapsfound. #movethedial’s founder Jodi Kovitz believes that the report “will serve as a catalyst for self-reflection and help us all commit to creating a diverse, inclusive and unstoppable tech community.” 

Women With STEM Degrees

In 2010, women comprised approximately 56 percent of Canadian university graduates. However, there are significantly less women graduating with STEM degrees, making up only 30 percent. The lack of interest in tech for young women is a concern for many countries, including the US and the UK. A survey by PwC UK found 20 percent of young women were uninterested in the industry because of what they perceived as its male-dominated culture.

Women in the Workforce

A 2016 Catalyst report found 53 percent of women working in tech eventually leave the industry. The representation of women in executive positions are currently at significantly low numbers, with only 5% of tech companies in Canada with a female co-founder.

A MaRS survey found we are slowly moving in the right direction, with a growing number of female executives in startups. However, women only account for 15.8 percent of C-suite positions and 14.3 percent of founders or co-founders.

“At the end of the day, we’re all equal. We all deserve similar opportunities, and it’s a matter of getting to a place where we have the diversity of skills, diversity of culture and diversity of gender at the table. This will allow us to make good decisions to grow our business, grow our economy and grow ourselves. That’s the bottom line.” – Michelle Scarborough, BDC.

Only 14 percent of companies with female executives also have a founder who is a woman. Female CEOs represent only 12 percent of companies who have women on the executive team. A staggering 53 percent of Canadian tech companies have no female executives at all, and 73 percent have none on their boards of directors. Having women on the executive team has a trickle-down effect on the company, increasing the overall percentage of women in the company.

Promoting Women in Tech

There are many organizations who are making an active effort to get girls involved in tech at an early age, including Ladies Learning Code and its youth branch, Girls Learning Code. Ladies Learning Code is a program for women interested in computer programming and gaining technical skills. “It’s also about educating young women and girls on various jobs they could have in tech, and talking to them about the investment side of tech,” explains Whitney Rockley, a sponsor of Ladies Learning Code.

Through greater education, a network of support, and strong role models, it is hoped that more girls will gain interest in STEM-related degrees. A great way to get involved is in the form of mentorship and support, providing a “road map for other women to follow in their footsteps.” We need to encourage and support women to feel comfortable enough to succeed. Janet Bannister, General Partner at Real Ventures, shares how VCs are actively seeking women entrepreneurs to fund. “For women who want to build their own tech business or pursue a career in tech, they should absolutely go for it; they should pursue their dreams and they can definitely be successful.”

Women and men are equally qualified, and should be given the same opportunities. The tech industry is growing rapidly, and we cannot keep half of the population on the sidelines. We must support and encourage the women in our networks, advancing women in the tech community.

“At the end of the day, we’re all equal, “ says Michelle Scarboroughat BDC. “We all deserve similar opportunities, and it’s a matter of getting to a place where we have the diversity of skills, diversity of culture and diversity of gender at the table. This will allow us to make good decisions to grow our business, grow our economy and grow ourselves. That’s the bottom line.”