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International Women’s Day: How to be a force for change

Olivia ScholesMarch 6, 2020

 

Gender equality is an important issue today, especially in industries like tech where women are still so far outnumbered. In Canada, women make up just 22% of the high-skilled STEM (science, technology, engineering, medicine) workforce. Women in management continue to be under-represented as well — only 5% of Canadian tech companies have a female CEO, and just 7% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women

“Going through classes, I was quite frequently one of the only women in the class.” – Erika, Software Developer, Assembly.

So, what does this all mean? Why is it so important? In a nutshell, more than half of the population is being left out of the conversation about topics that directly influence and shape our societies and lives.

In honour of International Women’s Day, we interviewed a handful of inspiring, talented, and visionary women at Redbrick. From their definitions of success to advice for women everywhere, we’re uncovering how we can all support the cause and create a brighter future for all. 

 

1. It starts with awareness

The truth? We are all biased. We all walk around with our own opinions, beliefs, and ways of viewing the world. I am part of the problem. You are part of the problem. We are all part of the problem, and the first step towards real change is being aware of the biases we carry. 

“We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.” – Sheryl Sandberg

The next step is being intentional about our actions and the words we choose — they have the power to either enforce or dismantle stereotypes. 

 

2. Advocate for the women in your life

This is important everywhere, but especially in industries like tech, where women are so far out-numbered. Advocate for your peers. You’ll be amazed at the ripple effects created by giving recognition for a “job well done.” When we feel good about ourselves, we’re more likely to see others in a positive light. In having grace and approaching situations with empathy, we create an environment where others feel supported to take risks and do their best work. 

Gender equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a societal one. Societies with a greater balance of power between genders enjoy lower crime rates, greater GDP, and an overall greater sense of well-being. In the words of Nadia Tatlow, CEO of Shift, “We can only all win when women have a seat at the table.” 

 

3. Lead with intention

You have an opportunity. Whether you’re a manager, CEO, mentor, employee, colleague or peer, you have an opportunity to lead in your own way. The next generation of leaders are being molded; I challenge you to think critically about the type that you want to be. And, this isn’t limited to management. Leading from the bottom up is powerful; you don’t need a manager or senior title to create change. Embrace your differences and play to your strengths; that’s where the magic happens.

“We’re not ever going to be a part of the boys club, and I don’t think we want to be. We can lead in our own way. Our power is in embracing our differences from men and doing it differently.” – Nadia, CEO, Shift. 

We’ve come a long way. Women are joining executive boards at record rates, and women’s issues around the world are being given a global forum. I see women at the top of our own organization — 40% of the Redbrick executive leadership team self-identify as female. As a young woman starting a career, I can’t say enough about how important it is to see ambitious, hardworking, talented women at those tables. As Linda Christie, the VP of Finance at Redbrick explained, “The more we see women in those roles, the more we want to strive for that.” 

Now, I’d like to take a minute to recognize our male counterparts for their support in this movement. In fact, this project would not exist without it. A big shout-out to Mike Munroe for his incredible work filming and editing, and Brian Thai for kickstarting this awesome initiative and supporting it every step of the way.

Together, change is possible. Together, we can create a future where, in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “Female leaders are just leaders.”