International Women’s Day focuses on highlighting the accomplishments of women, as well as the challenges that they face. Those challenges aren’t limited to one single day, it’s every day, in both their personal and professional lives.
BetaKit has collected a variety of articles that we hope can be used to raise awareness and create actionable takeaways. The following list is a collection of talking points, educational tools, and support resources. Originally compiled in 2020, BetaKit has updated it each year since then with additional talking points and resources.
We encourage you to read and share, to amplify the conversation.
An annual review conducted by Canadian security regulators found that, in 2021, the number of women in boardrooms and executive positions in technology are still not on par with their contemporaries in other industries. The review placed the tech sector at the bottom for female C-suite executives.
These findings followed a 2020 report that pulled together public disclosure documents of 594 companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, which found that although the presence of women on the boards of some Canadian companies has been slowly increasing, there is still a notable lack of visible minorities, Indigenous people, and people with disabilities.
These reports resonate with data going back to 2017, when a #MoveTheDial report explored a wide range of gender inequity issues in the tech world, noting that women comprise just 13 percent of the average tech company’s executive team.
A recent study from the Conference Board of Canada found that women have a harder time raising capital due in part to the investor biases they face. The study found that, compared to men, women reported it took longer to raise Series A financing, requiring more pitches to do so. The survey also reported differences in the way people of different genders pitch to investors, how those pitches are received, access to networks, and pools of capital.
These findings should come as no surprise given that reports indicate that women-founded startups still only receive a very small slice of overall venture capital (VC) investment. According to PitchBook data, women only received 1.9 percent of all VC investment in 2022. Even worse, this already small share appears to have been dropping each of the past few years.
On the employee side of the equation, despite recent efforts by technology companies to improve gender equality and parity in the workplace, research from SAP Canada in 2019 found that an increasing number of women in the country have a bleak outlook on the industry. Nearly half of the female students and young professionals surveyed said they do not believe tech companies really want to hire women.
More recent reports appear to echo this sentiment, with numbers showing that women are still underrepresented in tech. The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a negative effect, as SAP Canada’s more recent report revealed.
However, the 2021 report also found several encouraging signs regarding women’s view of the tech sector with 63 percent of women in tech agreeing they feel supported by their company, compared to 51 percent in non-tech roles.
Diversity problems and lack of representation are felt across Canada and across intersectionalities, with women of colour often facing greater barriers than their counterparts.
The 2021 report from The Prosperity Project and KPMG Canada linked above pointed to a lack of visible minorities, including racialized women, in leadership positions in Canada’s largest organizations.
The lack of representation in Canada’s largest organizations is echoed in the tech sector, particularly for Indigenous people, with one survey of 270 public companies noting the number of board positions held by Indigenous peoples was only seven.
Minerva BC, a charitable organization for women in British Columbia, conducted a report that also found a pronounced lack of Indigenous representation in the province, with zero people who identified as Indigenous on boards or in executive roles.
BDC Capital report finds Canadian VCs are hiring more diverse candidates but facing difficulties with talent retention
According to BDC Capital’s first national D&I reporting survey from 2022, women make up at least 50 percent of fresh hires and promotions, indicating that Canadian VCs are taking strides on the gender diversity front from a hiring and advancement standpoint.
But despite this progress, data collected indicates that Canadian investors are also struggling to retain women. This finding could reflect the fact that many VC firms have yet to create truly inclusive environments for women.
The data shows a contiued trend from years past, as the 2022 report from the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA), conducted alongside Diversio, pointed to the age-old story of some progress but not enough.
While a 2019 report from the CVCA and BDC found that women comprise 12 percent of partners in Canadian private equity firms, and 11 percent in Canadian venture capital firms, the new report notes that women make up less than 20 percent of all partners in Canada.
Interestingly, the report also touched on the inclusion side of the diversity and inclusion (D&I) coin. The report shows that investment firms might be hiring more diverse teams, but the environment they are building has yet to become inclusive.
More than half of women entrepreneurs surveyed for a study in 2021 reported that they had struggled with mental health issues. The same study also noted that of the 130 female founders surveyed globally, 95.2 percent said they’d suffered from anxiety during rounds of seed funding.
Fifty-two percent of the women and non-binary respondents to the study reported dealing with mental health issues.
The report found a generally unsustainable lifestyle of anxiety and burnout for female founders as they grapple with issues ranging from the stresses of raising a family while trying simultaneously to raise millions in seed money, to finding time for their health and social life.
On a more positive note, Fatima Zaidi, co-founder and CEO of Quill, penned an op-ed discussing the need to speed up the “glacial pace of progress” in Canadian tech. Noting women who are taking matters into their own hands with new initiatives, Zaidi argues that the acceleration of women leadership is “inevitable.”
“The good news is that instead of being tired of waiting, women are taking action for themselves,” Zaidi writes.
Speaking of women taking action: innovation, demographic changes, and widening market demands have helped FinTechs disrupt traditional financial services. In light of the explosion of FinTech activity in Canada over the last few years, the Digital Finance Institute highlighted some of the key women behind this growth.
In 2017 and 2019, BetaKit also highlighted women and non-binary individuals in Canada’s tech community building great companies, creating robust networks, and generally kicking ass.
The individuals on these lists are just some of many who are inspiring others like them to take risks and think big.
As the tech community works to create a more inclusive and diverse culture, a playbook created by #MoveTheDial and Feminuity focused on actionable strategies tech companies can take to retain women workers. The playbook features insights and strategies that tech companies at various stages can adopt to increase inclusion and engagement.
The first step in understanding diversity in a company is tracking. In past years, many companies have complained that they did not know how to even start that process. Steph Little, a former human resources manager at Hubba, and currently a senior consultant for Bright + Early, had a solution.
In 2017, Hubba released an open source framework to help companies track diversity within their teams. The framework lists best practices for building an internal survey, including methods for framing questions (being specific vs. oversimplifying), the importance of the ‘other’ option, and breaking down demographics by a variety of factors instead of just male or female.
This article was originally published on March 6, 2020, and updated March 8, 2023.
Feature image courtesy Unsplash. Photo by WOCinTech.
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