When Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia read about Deloitte Canada’s recent report on the status of women in tech, she had to agree with the dismal findings.
Deloitte looked at the way women are recruited and hired, their retention rates, pay, and paths to promotion, and found cause for concern in all areas.
But Bahr-Gedalia, the President and CEO of Digital Nova Scotia, is also optimistic because she is involved in a project that is boosting women in tech in the province.
The Women Leaders Fueling the Digital Economy project launched in early 2014.
“This is the first project of its scope in Nova Scotia,” Bahr-Gedalia said.
“The aim of the project is to increase the number of women in senior-level positions working in technology,” she said of the initiative, which is being funded by Status of Women Canada.
Digital Nova Scotia (DNS) is the industry association for Nova Scotia’s information and communications technology and digital technologies sector.
During the project, DNS has held round-table discussions with senior executives from major ICT companies in the region to develop and implement best practices.
DNS has also met with managers who supervise around 3,000 ICT employees. The managers were provided with a Representation and Planning Management Toolkit developed by DNS to track and measure their progress in relation to gender diversity.
“While the project is not finished until August of 2016, we've already seen positive results,” Bahr-Gedalia said.
“For example, one of our participating companies undertook a gender analysis of the company's compensation system and made several adjustments to female employees' salaries.”
She said that another organization has made changes to management job descriptions and postings to achieve a greater balance between the requirements for technical skills and business and leadership skills.
Job postings, especially in the tech sector, often use gender-biased language with a technical focus, despite the need for business and leadership skills, Bahr-Gedalia said.
“This particular organization reviewed how they could make their posting more inclusive to broaden the number of applicants by highlighting the business and leadership requirements, in addition to the technical capabilities,” she said.
“This approach has led to an increase in applications and hiring of female tech talent in management in this organization.”
Deloitte Canada’s findings about women in tech were included in its Deloitte Technology, Media and Telecom predictions for 2016.
The company forecast that only 22 per cent of information technology jobs in Canada will be held by women this year, lagging behind the 24-per-cent mark in the U.S.
Deloitte said reaching gender parity could take decades. Currently, only 25 percent of computer science students in Canada are women, down from 27 percent in 2009.
Deloitte also found that women are 45 percent more likely than men to leave an IT job after a year. Over five years they are more than twice as likely to leave IT altogether.
When it comes to salaries, U.S. female web designers earn 79 cents for every dollar made by men.
“Pay equity should really not be an issue in 2016, but unfortunately, it still exists, and we need more companies to actively address it,” Bahr-Gedalia said.
The Nova Scotia project is now entering its third and final phase. This is the Digital Diversity Awards program, which will celebrate regional champions of gender diversity in the tech sector.
The four award categories include: Women Leaders in the Digital Economy; Diversity Champion of the Year; Power IT Up: Next Generation Leadership and Volunteer of the Year
The Call for Nominations for the Digital Diversity Awards is open until March 8. Applicants can apply here.