TECH-nically a Women - Fully a Person

Two experiences in the last two weeks that have changed my perspective

After having watched The Hundred Foot Journey (Lasse Hallström, 2014), I picked up the novel and whipped through it in under a week. Quick plot: a family from Indian emigrates to a small country town in France. The family opens up a restaurant, attracting much attention from a local high top restaurant owner, Madame Mallory. She takes the main character, Hassan, under her wing and he ends up in Paris with his own 3-michelin star restaurant. My favourite part about the story came at the very end, when the michelin-inspection committee calls Hassan to award him his third star. The critic says, "you are the first foreign chef in the city to ever win a third star." Quite a backhanded compliment.

Similar to this experience, I read an article in LinkedIn called "Recruiting, and Retaining Women in Tech." A good brief article about why women feel unwelcome in tech related careers,

"If your company is mostly male, you will have to work extra hard to create a women-friendly culture, where women don't feel they are different" - Caterina Fake (CEO, Findery).

The article ends with a call to action: 

"Don't just sit and wait for women to apply for jobs. Make sure your company is friendly to women. Let it be known that you are interested in recruiting and retaining women. Build your own pipeline for applicants."

My immediate reaction was positive. Of course women (like men) want to feel comfortable and safe entering a work environment. And let's be honest, certain jobs have a reputation of being ill-suited for women. Upon further consideration, however, I also realized that it might potentially be backhanded. Like our compliment above. What if you found out after being hired at the workplace of your dreams that you were considered there, not solely based on skills, but because you were a woman? How do you feel?


Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant write a column called Women at Work in the Sunday TIMES. This past week, they explored "Why Women Stay Quiet" in workplace environments. They open with an example of an incident I believe we have all been through:

"Almost every time [women] started to speak, they were interrupted or shot down before finishing their pitch. When one had a good idea, a male writer would jump in and run with it before she could complete her thought." - [reported by Glenn Mazzara]

Sound familiar? 

Women of Influence, Magazine

I attended an extremely inspiring and helpful talk by Carolyn Lawrence, President & CEO of Women of Influence. She talked about how men and women learn differently, but that both genders are key ingredients for a company's success. It is figuring out how to use each other's best qualities / assets that is the challenge. Once this hurdle is overcome, however, success follows.

I walked away with two feelings. The first is, no longer will I remain quiet. If I have ideas, I will share. Later that week I did just that. And what happened? I was immediately interrupted. However, unlike the ladies above, I took matters into my own hands. I stopped that male speaker right away and politely said, "I am sorry, I was not finished my thought."

What happened next?

They were not offended and actually stopped talking. I was able to finish my thought and even though they shot it down shortly after, I had at least commanded the attention of the table for that split second without endangering myself as being called rude.


The second lesson I learned is to ACTUALLY walk away. She said that if your situation has reached a point where you feel unhappy, then leave. So simple. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Concerning Balancing Gender Diversity in the Technical Sectors

OKAY. So. How do we balance these ideas? How do we address the need to have gender equality in the technical sector without calling attention to gender itself?

Women as persons. That is my balancing solution.

Another article was brought to my attention at a meeting with MUFFS (Monthly Underground Female Film Society, Toronto) this past weekend: "Ten Surprising Movies Directed by Women". 

First off: Dear writer who is indeed a woman, why is this surprising at all? Did these films possess an overall male-aesthetic and male-perspective? What is the surprise: the fact that these films are successful? The fact that these films won awards?

"Not only did the film get nominated for 4 Canadian Screen Awards, and 3 Oscars, it was directed by a woman (whereupon multiple exclamation points appear - profusely overused - for an exaggerated effect)."

No more.

Support for women locally

To me it is so simple. People are people. Women are people. Therefore, let's celebrate human achievement - irrespective of gender. His-story is made up of Her-story too.

*Excuse my lack here at this moment of mentioning RACE or SEXUALITY or CULTURE. These are three completely different (yet interrelated) topics to tackle for a different week.

What can you do? Join a club. Join a society. Volunteer. Blog. Listen. Read. Educate yourself. Empower the people around you. Use language as a positive inducer versus as a Debbie Downer.

I helped volunteer at a really cool event this past November called Women Who Rock - Auction for Action. A collection of top mining CEOs gathered that evening on stage and were auctioned off to women in the mining industry for a one-on-one counselling session (career advice and young entrepreneurs). All proceeds ($6,000) were raised for the Alma Fund, which financially supports women in South America.

Support for women internationally

I recently signed a petition with Global Fund for Women concerning "ending the gender technology gap." This initiative supports international women by making available all areas of technology / science / development to both genders in an equal environment.

To conclude my analysis, there is definitely a move towards awareness in the workspace concerning the lack of women in the technical sectors or even the absence of female contribution or shared opinion. Please share some articles you found intriguing and continue the talk moving forward.

People as people,

- Jenn


Charlotte Ficek