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Creating Inclusive Communities in Tech

Takeaways from the OpenText Women in Technology Summit

OpenText hosted its first Women in Technology Summit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on July 12, 2018—and it was beyond inspiring! The conference was packed with motivational keynotes, interactive panels, and lightning talks that provided attendees with new ideas for fostering a diverse workplace, strategies for hiring and recruitment, and tangible techniques to advance and flourish in their career. It was a truly incredible day.

One of the key takeaways from the conference was the importance of creating inclusive communities to encourage more diversity in the technology industry. Whether it’s in the classroom, in the community, or in the workplace, inclusive communities help women and other minority groups feel safe and empowered and provide them with an environment in which to be successful. In turn, this can help encourage more young girls and women to enter—and stay—in STEM fields. And no matter what your role is in a community, we can all take tangible action to make it more inclusive.

The pipeline issue: It’s not just about the pipeline

Boys and girls are born with exactly the same interest in STEM, but along the way various forces—culture, education, mentorship or opportunity—leads to women and girls opting-out of STEM fields. This is what we typically refer to as the pipeline issue. But the problem is much bigger than just the pipeline—or the leaky pipeline, as Pearl Sullivan, Dean of Engineering, University of Waterloo puts it.

At the post-secondary level, we have to offer programs that work for women entering STEM and that provide a safe space for learning. Since 2007, the University of Waterloo has expanded its engineering programs to include management engineering, architectural engineering, and biomedical engineering—and they’ve seen drastic increases in female enrollment. As Pearl noted, we need to move beyond what we’re familiar with to develop education programs that work for today’s workforce and improve gender representation and diversity.

But the work doesn’t stop there. Once we have more women graduating from STEM fields, we need to ensure they have safe, supportive work environments. In her earlier session, Stephanie Lampkin shared that many women are simply opting out of the technology industry due to experiences of sexual harassment and racism. We need to create inclusive work spaces that encourage women in stay in the technology industry—and that starts by imagining the future we want and redefining the way we work. You can hear more about lifting each other up in the face of challenges in this lightning talk by Saadia Muzaffar, Founder of TechGirls Canada.

With inclusive communities, our collective genius is unstoppable

Collective genius is when different people in a community or an organization come together to collaboratively solve problems, brainstorm new ideas, and more. It’s a concept that Megan Smith, former Chief Technology Officer of the United States (2014-2017) spoke about at length during the conference. According to Megan, collective genius is fundamental to innovation and is made stronger when diverse voices and perspectives are brought to the table.  In other words, when we create inclusive, collaborative communities, we can tap into the ideas and perspectives of everyone at the table and create collective genius.

“How do we create more community amongst women and men together?”

–Megan Smith, former Chief Technology Officer of the United States (2014-2017)

One simple thing we can all do to create inclusive communities is to invite people to join us. There are so many events happening around the world, but often people don’t realize they can participate or don’t feel that they belong. By building bridges and inviting diverse groups of people to the table, we can foster a stronger, innovative collective genius that solves the problems of today and creates the world of tomorrow.

Stay tuned for more takeaways from the OpenText Women in Technology Summit! In my next post, I’ll share some insights into how we can lift ourselves and others up.

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