The landscape for women in technology is changing, but it’s not changing fast enough

By June 19, 2019January 24th, 2020Insights

This week, as part of our #HGWomenSpotlight, we are so excited to introduce Grace Lee from CIBC.

Grace is the Director, Business Analysis & Release Planning at CIBC. In her current role, Grace leads a team of Business Analysts. Her team acts as the translator from business to technology and technology to business:

Business Analysts are a lot like artists or designers. We ask a lot of questions, so that we know exactly why you do something and what you envision your final product to look like. We then take all this information we’ve gathered from you, and share it with our coders so that they can build the exact thing you asked for. By asking questions, this allows us to better know who our clients are and understand their ambitions. This, in turn, helps us to create radically simple, innovative, and reliable solutions tailored for their needs.

Although she works connecting business and technology every day now, her fondest memory of technology is when dial up internet was introduced. It created an amazing space to surf the “world wide web” …until someone picked up the telephone and your connection kicked out. It was always high adrenaline trying to beat someone to the phone to keep yourself logged in!

This year, as part of Hackergal’s Spring Hackathon, Grace supported our program by visiting a Hackergal school on the morning of the big day!

Here, Grace tells the Hackergal team all about her experience in the school, her perspective as a woman in tech, and shares some important advice for young women who want to set off in a similar direction.

Being at a school, in person with the educators and girls, what did you observe? Tell us all about it!

Watching young girls and educators who knew very little about coding come together, to learn, experiment and discover a passion for something new was amazing. The educators were encouraging and challenged the girls to push past any reservations. The girls were curious and passionate, and you could see how that translated into their final coding projects.

Beyond coding, what did you see in the girls on the big day?

This event showcased a lot of the different strengths these girls had; they exemplified leadership as they empowered each other to try different things and collaboration as they worked together to solve problems. There was an air of confidence and openness, as they presented and shared constructive feedback with one another. These participants learned much more than coding, they learned soft skills that can be continually developed and refined and used in any situation.

Why do you think it’s important to support girls in schools and in the middle school years?

The landscape for women in technology is changing, but it’s not changing fast enough. Many of us are still struggling with bias, but it’s important we are at the table, because we bring a different perspective and skillset that needs to be showcased. This generation of girls are growing up with the knowledge and power of technology, to them there has never been a time without it. These are the greatest innovative minds who will bring more and more change to the world, and it’s imperative that we continue to nurture their growth.

How can we be strong role models for the next generation? What message do you think is important for young girls to hear?

Amelia Earhart once said: “Women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.”

We need to continue to mentor and encourage other young women who are starting or thinking of starting a career in technology. Sharing our own experiences and challenges, showing them how we’ve been able to persevere and overcome the obstacles put in our paths is critical. It’s important for young women to know that there is no limit to what they can achieve, and failure is necessary for growth.

What has helped you get to where you are now and what advice would you have for young women who want to set off in a similar direction?

I made a huge shift in my career many years ago, when I decided to move from finance into technology. I was uncertain of how I fit in. I have been very fortunate to have met many great leaders (both women and men), with vastly different experiences who challenged me to break through the mold.

Embrace your differences, stand out and make technology your own. No two people use technology in the exact same way, why would we use only one voice to create it?

What is one piece of practical advice you would give to someone starting out in technology?

Network! Network! Network! Networking is a core skill everyone needs to learn. We need to build lasting relationships and share our different experiences and lessons we’ve learned throughout our careers. This is a journey, but it’s not one that we need to do alone.

What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?

One of the best parts of being a woman in the tech industry is just that…I am a woman in the tech industry. I am different! I bring diversity to the table that goes beyond my gender, I bring diversity of thought and experience, and challenge my colleagues to think beyond what they’ve always known and how they’ve operated.