For over a hundred years, we’ve been celebrating International Women’s Day. For some, it’s a moment to toast the achievements of women across society; for others, it’s a chance to continue pushing towards equality. For me, it’s a lovely mix of the two. That’s why I gathered five of my colleagues around a table, to celebrate the exceptional women of GSoft and discuss the challenges still ahead of us.
Who are they?
Across our teams, we’re lucky to work with women as talented as they are inspiring. I was curious, though: what path had brought them to GSoft and the world of tech?
Élise St-Aubin Fournier
Director - Data, Analytics & User Research at Officevibe
For Élise, it was a process. “I studied financial engineering. I loved the quantitative side of things, but I realized early on that the world of banks and finance didn’t interest me much. I was working in consulting when I found myself in the midst of the analytics revolution. That’s where the change happened. It was incredibly stimulating to be able to dig at questions concerning every decision a company might take, and find answers across countless fields. Data doesn’t always provide the answer, but it does always offer the information we need to challenge our hypotheses and bias.”
Director - User Experience at Officevibe
Audrée, on the other hand, launched into tech entrepreneurship at a young age. “I co-founded a data visualization studio, FFunction. We were doing a ton of projects for apps rich in data, for nonprofits like the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as Fortune 500 companies like GE and Google. We did visual storytelling, dashboards, stuff that allowed me to tackle novel UX challenges . Over time, I realized that my favourite projects were all application-based, so I decided to quit the agency world for the product side of things. Here, I can test my hypotheses directly with the user base and get the chance to perfect their experience over time.”
Web Designer at Officevibe
This desire to get closer to the user also motivated Chloé. “I worked in design agencies. I was a creative director, a role usually filled by men here in Montreal. I wanted to get closer to my target, the end user, and that’s why I opted for tech and the product side. I’ll admit I was a bit scared that the industry would be far less creative. But I actually found the exact culture I was looking for: endless opportunities to create, and the chance to experience first-hand how my work impacts users.”
UX Researcher at GSoft
To talk culture is to speak Carmen’s language. “My journey has taken me from interior and industrial design to UI design and UX research. The common denominator is the search to understand and create the necessary environments for people to thrive. Whether it’s as part of my involvement with UpstartED and Technovation, teaching kids the core competencies they’ll need to build a world they want to live in, or my role in Culture & Organization at GSoft, I want to create spaces that welcome a variety of perspectives.”
Data Scientist at Officevibe
One of these new perspectives belongs to Aurélie. With a Bachelor’s in Administration and a Master’s in Business Intelligence, we could guess where her interests lie. Not the case, though: “I didn’t choose to work at Officevibe because it was in the tech industry, but because I recognized the impact its product could have on company cultures. I also saw a chance to unite my passions for data and teaching. Now, I spend my days combining data analysis and organizing training sessions at all levels of the company. I even have the flexibility to keep teaching classes at my university!”
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Changing a culture sometimes means building a new one
If there’s a common thread that flows through our conversations, it’s a belief that the tech industry, with its forward-thinking nature, is in an excellent position to create the kind of culture that gives women their due.
If there’s one regret Élise holds, it’s those moments in her career when she tolerated the intolerable and let unacceptable behaviour slide because ‘that’s just the way things work.’ “I learned a lot from those experiences, and they’ve made me a better person today. I was lucky to have a great mentor when I was young. Now, surrounded by a data team comprised of mostly women - a rarity in our field, let’s admit it! - it’s now my turn to create a culture of solidarity and support! At the end of the day, women are pretty good at pulling each other up.”
Support can even come from the most mundane of sources. Our conversation converges around another topic: the ‘GGirls’ Slack channel. Bringing together the hundred women of GSoft, the group is a font of advice, mutual aid and moral support, especially since the move to working from home. “It’s the only place where whatever I choose to post, I know it will be well received,” Carmen shares with me. With enough critical mass, women can feel at ease to be themselves in their work environment, which isn’t always the case.
At GSoft, we’re lucky that 35% of our staff are women. But, just like the industry at large, there’s still a lot of work ahead of us.
“I was surprised to see so many incredible women in leadership positions when I got here,” says Aurélie. “But breaking the glass ceiling isn’t enough; we need to widen the hole to let everyone through.”
Still today, some roles are far from parity. “Especially with the devs. Back in my agency days, we made sure to keep a 50/50 ratio,” adds Audrée. The data supports this notion: startups founded by at least one woman hire up to six times more women. The good news is that there’s nothing stopping us from fixing this inequality. According to Aurélie, targeted interventions are necessary to attract the talented candidates we are missing, the ones we want in our teams. These conversations are already occurring at every level of our organization, whether it’s opening new positions or rethinking the language and approach of our recruitment campaigns.
Chloé adds an important detail: the goal isn’t just to create an environment that attracts more women. It’s also to open the door to a wider diversity of women. Not only to women of colour, who face even greater barriers, but to a diversity of personalities.
For Carmen, if we have something in common around the table, it’s that we’re all tremendously qualified and competent. We have to recognize where we want to position ourselves as women in the tech industry and take our place, rather than fighting tooth and nail like we had to in the past. So that it doesn’t matter whether we’ve got a combative nature or are more reserved. If one of the missions of technology is to connect people and give them a platform, let’s make sure that everyone has a voice in its creation.
If we’re going to make this vision happen, it’s going to take a huge amount of work from all of us, whether women, men or non-binary. But the results of those efforts will be a work culture that works for everyone, where everyone can feel legitimate. “Otherwise,” asks Chloé at the end of our chat, “what else would the goal of a tech company be, anyway?”
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