For many companies, having diversity within their employees has become something of great importance. Some say it has even become a CEO-level issue. Yet, in a Global Gender Gap Report, Canada ranked 20th on gender equality behind countries such as Nigeria and Cuba. Within the workforce, women are missing in several industries; technology in particular.
I sat down with Jasmin Ganie-Hobbs, Senior Development Banker at Business Development Bank of Canada to discuss this issue. Jasmin has worked with thousands of tech companies over the years and is a Spokesperson & Champion for Women Entrepreneurs. Throughout her experience, she has seen time and time again that the issue is not that women are not wanted in the tech industry, it is that they are not persuing careers in technology. “Many people have told me that if they are looking for a developer, they do not have to use head hunters or recruiters to find males that specialize in development,” says Jasmin, “but if they want to find a female, they have to use a head hunter”.
So why are women not persuing careers in technology?
A report from TD Bank shows that women are only half as likely as men to start their own business. In the undergraduate and graduate level according to Statistics Canada, less than 20% of students in computer science and engineering are women. In pop culture, movies such as The Social Network have portrayed coding as “a guys’ thing”. “It has not been considered a traditional career for women”, says Jasmin, “I do a lot of mentoring with high school students and when they are thinking about careers, it’s not often the case that they will think about tech as something to aim for”.
So how do we fix this?
There have been many initiatives such as Ladies Learning Code to encourage women to pursue careers in technology, but Jasmin says we have to do more. For many, career aspirations start as young as elementary school age, but since the media portrays technology as being “a guy’s thing”, we need to “put forth tech as a great career choice for women and need to start having women thinking about that from the time they’re really young”, says Jasmin.
Jasmin notes the work of Ray Sharma, who is the Founder and Executive Managing Partner of Extreme Venture Partners. Ray has started hosting hackathons for girls in middle school where they get to build a video game through coding. By creating more opportunities for girls to be exposed to coding, they will be more comfortable persuing a career in technology as opposed to feeling intimidated when they start to learn the basics in their 20s. Jasmin feels we need to start teaching coding as a language to children in elementary school.
“There’s no denying it, the jobs of the future are in technology and the opportunities for women are endless”, says Jasmin, “the doors are flinging right open”. For women persuing a career in technology, the job prospects are great, especially as opposed to a field already saturated with women. In addition to all the perks and the high pay scale, Jasmin says that you will never be bored; there is always a leading edge or bleeding edge project happening.
I asked Jasmin if she has any final words of advice for women interested in persuing a career in technology.
She said “just go for it!”