Not only was International Women’s Day this past Sunday, March 8th, but March is also Women’s History Month – an opportunity to celebrate the successes and progress that has been made for women across the world. These milestones also give us the opportunity to continue driving change by having conversations about challenges and solutions to those challenges on a global scale.
Organizations like Toronto-based #movethedial, whose mission is to advance leadership of women in the tech industry, does just that. As a proud founding partner of #movethedial, Ceridian had the opportunity to attend an IWD 2020 breakfast hosted by #movethedial in partnership with ELEVATE, to celebrate female Founders, Funders, and Friends.
Here are some of the key takeaways we encourage leaders to critically consider on the journey to #EachforEqual, this year’s IWD theme, and how we can apply these learnings to our everyday lives.
At the #movethedial IWD breakfast, the tone for the morning was set by Lisa Zarzeczny, the senior operations manager of ELEVATE, a Canadian based tech festival, and sponsor of #movethedial. On the topic of women in the technology industry, Zarzeczny poignantly pointed out: “If you can’t see it, you won’t become it.”
In other words – one of the most effective ways for us all to invest in the younger generation of women leaders is by being bold in your own aspirations. The younger generation needs to “see it to be it.” The best way to accomplish this is through meaningful leadership and mentorship. Within the workplace, a way to champion women and to continuously support them is by offering mentorship and sponsorship, by being a caring leader, and by leading through example. Be bold in your leadership.
Jodi Kovitz, Founder and CEO of #movethedial, embodied optimism as she reflected on IWD and #movethedial. Kovitz used the progress #movethedial has made over the last three years as an example of how optimism can lead to growth. “This room is proof positive of what we together as an ecosystem have done in the past three years. We have so much to celebrate,” said Kovitz. “When we look at rooms like this, they look very different than three years ago. I’m going to invite you into my optimism to celebrate the success we have and to fuel our commitment to go even deeper in, and each go a little out of our way to move the dial faster.”
Kovitz’ optimism is the fuel that organizations need to champion and support the women they employ – positive action will drive future generations and inspire women to reach their full potential. Through her encouragement, positive thinking, and glass-half-full mentality, Jodi has been able to truly move the dial for women in technology. “It takes all of us to move the dial to fuel the tech founders who happen to be women,” said Jodi, on the concept of collective motivation.
Kovitz concluded her reflections by sharing what we all can do to support the women entrepreneurs and founders in our communities:
“Here’s what we can do to better help and support women entrepreneurs:
Sangita Patel, Entertainment Reporter at ET Canada acted as the Master of Ceremonies for the morning. She shared her favorite quote around women raising each other up: “To strong women: may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.” The ethos of that quote is to spread the success of women across all women – let your own success be the success of all women, and vice versa.
International Women’s Day, Patel reflects, is an opportunity to share women’s stories that should be better known. She maintained the tone of the morning by reinforcing the responsibility we all owe to the women trailblazers who have come before us to celebrate their work. Celebrating success can come in many forms – and it’s important for organizations and business leaders to think critically about how they can recognize and champion the successes of the women in their communities. Verbal accolades, meaningful promotions, or well-deserved raises are just a few ways to honour the women in your organization.
The morning’s first fireside chat featured Michael Katchen, Founder and CEO of Wealthsimple, and Stephanie Choo, Partner and Head of Investments at Portag3 Investments. They discussed how their respective organizations have identified organizational diversity gaps, and what they’ve done to fix them.
“A few years ago, we published our first report on what diversity looked like at Wealthsimple. Our C-suite is about 40% women,” Katchen explained. “We’ve made great progress on certain teams. [My advice is:] identify the biggest gaps and put efforts towards them, especially in the recruiting pipeline.”
The goal of the Wealthsimple Diversity Report was transparency. As the report states, “the results weren’t what we (Wealthsimple) hoped for, but that’s not why we did it.” As Katchen said, you have to identify the gaps and areas of opportunity within your company before you can fix them – which is what Wealthsimple did.
Stephanie Choo emphasized this point by acknowledging her own organization’s action gap: “The place that we [Portag3 Investments] are a bit more challenged in is funding women CEOs. Each individual step to make sure that we have women coming through at the very top of the funnel starts from the very bottom.”
By this, Choo means that business leaders have to proactively work to overcome their (sometimes unconscious) bias and make an effort to have diverse candidates coming in from the top of the funnel: “It’s making sure that we are being very actively conscious about the biases we have and making sure that we have quality candidates at the top of the funnel that we’re actively seek out.”
Both Katchen and Choo acknowledged that the first step to change is understanding where you can make improvements, and then act on them. Transparency is the first step to overcoming biases and creating #EachforEqual.
Venture capitalism is amale dominated industry, a fact that Janet Bannister, Managing Partner of Real Ventures, reinforced during her fireside chat with Margaret Jones, COO/CFO Partnerstack. “Only between six to 11% of senior positions [in venture capitalism] are female held,” Bannister said.
She shared her advice on thriving as a woman in the VC world: “The first thought that I have about being a woman in VC is be yourself. Be who you are. Be an authentic person. We’ve all seen the stats; diverse teams perform better. If you’re in a room and you’re the only female at the table, remember that your voice counts. Your voice will help your organization go from middle of the road to top performer. Have the courage to speak your voice.”
Organizations need to think beyond the standard definition of diversity to create a workplace where people can be comfortable being their true selves every day, a point Margaret Jones, COO/CFO of Partnerstack stressed: “We [Partnerstack] think of diversity as not only gender and race, but in terms of race, age, experience, educational background, and more. Diversity of thought helps makes a company stronger and propels it forward.”
A key takeaway, then is that business leaders need mindful action to truly welcome diversity of thought. This can start with diversified recruitment, and be maintained through workplace flexibility. “We do that starting with the interview process. We leverage a qualitative and quantitative rubric,” said Jones. “In terms of work culture - if you want a diverse employee base, you must be flexible with work hours. [You have to speak] about diversity and have the fundamental structure to support it.”
Only by having the proper systems in place can the workplace be a welcome environment for diversity where employees feel confident in being themselves.
The morning concluding with closing remarks from Candice Faktor, Managing Partner at Faktory Ventures and Game Changer Labs. Through her career journey, Candice paved her path to success by learning how to be deeply connect to herself.
“How are you connected to yourself, to listening to your intention, allowing the genius of your subconscious to come through? How are you connected to the people in your life? How are you connected to the planet?” she asked the audience.
In checking in with yourself, and taking the time to understand your goals, your environment, your community, etc., you have the opportunity to be a mindful, kind, and open-minded employee, manager, leader, founder, and more importantly: person. “If you’re connected, you’re able to create the future you want,” she said.
To create a future that is truly #EachforEqual, the onus is not only on businesses and business leaders to lead the way, but we also need to stay true to ourselves as employees, peers, friends, and partners to pave the path for future generations, and for our own futures.