Opinions abound as women in tech – and a few men – launch new peer group

Opinions abound as women in tech – and a few men – launch new peer group

Rob Drimmie was one of three men in a room full of women. He was attending the first Women in Tech Peer 2 Peer session. Was Drimmie out of place? Absolutely. Is the Women in Tech Peer2Peer group supposed to be a females-only space? Absolutely not.

And Drimmie agrees. “I think if nothing else, more guys need to [experience being] one of three guys in a room filled with women.” Drimmie says. “It won’t help us understand everything that women go through in their careers but at least it helps us develop a little bit of empathy. It puts us in those awkward situations of saying, ‘Hey, I’m an outsider here.’”

The Tuesday-morning breakfast was part of Communitech’s Women In Tech initiative to increase the retention and advancement of women in the industry.

The session, headlined by a panel of women from the Waterloo Region tech ecosystem including: Pj Lowe-Silivestru, Co-founder, bitHound; Sarah Tingle, Communications Specialist, BlackBerry; Ingrid Schiller, Director of Client Engagement, Changeit; Carmen Zannier, Software Development Manager, Desire2Learn; Rebecca Graham, Head of Human Resources, Enflick; andMelanie Ledgerwood, R&D Manager, Teledyne DALSA served to kick off the conversation. There will be three more Women in Tech Peer2Peers as part of the current pilot program.

The event was an opportunity for women, and men, to debate the issues and move the conversation from back-channel one-on-ones into a larger, more open community.

“Why am I here?” Jacqui Murphy, VP of Marketing at Auvik Networks and a session attendee, asked. “I’ve never focused on this aspect of my life. When someone says to me, how do you feel about being a woman in technology, I’m always the one who says, ‘I’m a woman?’ And then I saw Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk, and then I read Lean In, and I said to myself, ‘Listen to this, you idiot. Get off your ass and do something about this issue. You should be participating in the conversation in some way.’”

The panelists discussed a wide range of topics, such as work-life balance, being competitive, barriers to women’s success and defining the moment that girls lose interest in the STEM fields.

Defining success and finding balance were key themes for each panelist. They agreed that tackling the issue of women in tech wasn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Rather, women need to take small steps every day to create their own success, and then be a role model and share the passion that fuels them.

In the end, Lowe-Silivestru summed up the session when she said, “You are in charge of finding what makes you happy.”

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