Science & Research Finalist

We know that promoting diverse and inclusive workplaces is good for business and innovation, and we also know that when we ignore diversity and inclusion, we lose an opportunity for growth and the talent that comes with it.

What we don’t know is how to fix the “leaky pipeline” that discludes and discourages women at various stages of their tech career. We don’t know how many women are actively working in the Canadian tech sector, what motivates them to enter the industry, or why they leave. These are the questions that our team aimed to answer with our Canadian research.

In September 2017, Women in Tech World (WiTWorld) launched Driving WinTech Canada, a grassroots qualitative research tour to connect women in tech. Over the course of 10 months, we connected with over 1600 community members (all genders) across 31 tech communities coast to coast. Participants shared their personal experiences, as well as what they felt was helping women succeed, and their greatest roadblocks. From this data, our team of 150 volunteers built Canada’s largest qualitative dataset on women in tech and successfully published Canada’s Gender Equity Roadmap: A Study of Women in Tech.

Our community-first approach allowed us to connect with not only the leaders and senior level women in tech, but also those in entry-level and middle management positions. Participants were between the ages of 18-84, with the vast majority of participants 25-34 years of age.

We also discovered the top five barrier themes identified by women in tech across all career stages: (1) Bias and Discrimination, (2) Organizational Culture, (3) Personal Barriers, (4) Resources & Support Systems, and (5) Education.

Our research dove deep into each of these areas, pulling out experiential stories, as well as ideas for how each community would like to see these barriers addressed. Our goal was to create actionable plans to address the barriers women are experiencing in Canada, to set women in tech (currently and next generation) up for success.

What impact has the initiative had or is expected to have?

Our research marked the first time in Canadian history that so many community members had come together to voice their stories to create actionable change. While we are proud to have developed Canada’s largest qualitative dataset on women in tech, which can be referenced and utilized for future research and programming initiatives, our primary goal was to ignite actionable ideas to address existing barriers. While we were on our tour, and thereafter, we have learned that insights from our data have since been used to create community-first programming that addresses the needs of women who are considering, entering or working in the British Columbia and Canadian tech industry.

Following our report release in October 2018, we also launched a series of solveathon-style events across Canada to ‘hack the data’ to develop programming and tech applications directly relevant to the needs of Canadian women in tech.

In 2019 WiTWorld will be delivering additional programming built and backed by our data. This includes: virtual workshops and mastermind roundtables that provide expert and peer guidance, resources, and business development opportunities for women in tech and entrepreneurship.

What is unique about this initiative? Can it be scaled-up and replicated in other places?

This initiative is unique in that it creates community-based, data-driven action plans to advance women in tech, based on the lived experiences of women at all stages of their tech career. Unlike many other research projects, ours encouraged women to self-select into the women in tech community, which meant that we were not only talking to founders and executives but also entry-level and middle management women in tech. While a qualitative approach does take a lot more work to collect and analyze, it creates a unique depth of understanding of the community, as well as their buy-in to effect change. Although, we are now seeking sustainable funding, to date we have been completely volunteer-run, with our original research tour being funded via a 30K (Canadian) Kickstarter and team investment.

Yes, it is replicable. Not only did we continue our research on a smaller scale in B.C., but I also brought out research activity (we call them Community Conversations) to Amsterdam while I was hosting events as part of WiTRegatta. During a 2 hour event, the participants were incredibly engaged and expressed interest in taking part in a Netherlands-wide Driving WinTech tour. Our research activities can be conducted one-off, complemented by a digital survey, or on a larger scale. We have also been asked to bring our tour to Brazil.