In a recent report, Statistics Canada found that young women in university were less likely than men to choose a science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science (STEM) degree program. The report clarifies that this is not attributed to a lack of academic performance, so why are young women still not choosing to pursue tech careers? What does it take to be a female in the tech industry? How do you get started? What challenges will you face? In light of February’s Tech Career Awareness Month, CareerMash caught up with some fierce Canadian women for their advice on the topic.
Break the Stereotype and Let your Passion Guide You
To a young woman attending secondary school, a tech career can appear boring, full of “girl-geek” stereotypes, or frankly, just not feminine. This take on tech couldn’t be further from the truth, although some women do find that math and science is what attracted them to technology in the first place. For example, software engineer Sara Ahmadian says, “I always loved math and thought computers were cool.” Whether you’re good at math or not, today’s dynamic technology careers have exciting opportunities for everyone and many women are rocking these roles.
One of the best things about technology careers is that they’re so encompassing that almost anything you’re passionate about can turn into a technology career. In a recent interview with CareerMash, Michele Romanow, co-founder of Buytopia.ca said all you have to do is find an industry you love and then figure out how to enhance it with technology.
Jihane El Atifi, a freelancer working in Canada’s tech industry agrees, saying, “You can innovate and integrate your passion to shape the career you want. Tech is a great way to express yourself and meet like-minded people.”
Nicole Fortunaso, vice president of business development at iPerceptions, adds that making a connection with people who support your passion will inspire you when you need it most. While tech careers can be exciting and full of passion, they also come with some challenges, like any other career field.
The Best Advice for Overcoming Obstacles
Jihane El Atifi, Tech Freelancer, 27
“Go past the buzzwords and don’t feel intimidated by the tech jargon. If you put your mind to it you can learn it faster than you think you can. It’s not a man’s world, just dive in.”
Jihane has been working in the technology industry for the last five years. She has provided freelance services like tech marketing to over 20 startups, non-profits, festivals and agencies. Her best career experience was attending the Gamification Summit in San Francisco.
Sara Ahmadian, Software Engineer, 30
“In my current job, I am the only female engineer and have been for a long time. Sometimes that can be tough but we should remember that success is about being confident and happy with the person you are.”
Sara has been working in the tech industry for the last 10 years. She studied computer science and engineering in university and is currently a software engineer in the Silicon Valley at cloud-based invoicing company, Taulia. Her most memorable career moment was organizing the world’s largest robotics hackathon competition.
Nicole Fortunaso, Vice President of Business Development, 36
“Sometimes it’s easy to get torn between different points of view, so pick the ones that feel right for you…I truly believe in balancing a career in tech with a woman’s femininity. It’s important to know yourself. This will allow your passion and confidence to shine through in all your work and will pave the way to your success."
Nicole has been working in Canada’s tech industry for the last 13 years in marketing. Today, she has risen to the top of the business development team at tech market research firm, iPerceptions Inc. Nicole’s favorite part about her tech career is watching the positive impacts of applying technology in a way that solves problems and supports her clients.
Taking on Tech
Tech careers are dynamic and exciting and while some include math and science, these subjects are not necessarily prerequisites. Since the tech industry overlaps with so many other industries it's easy to find an "in" that is right for you. Just take the expert advice of the females featured here - using your passion to guide you. You can never go wrong as long as you know who you are and have confidence. If you've already applied to a post-secondary program with a tech career in mind, then, good move! If not, perhaps these women have helped you to reconsider. There really is a place for everyone in tech.