As the world moves towards the digitization of all industries, a Calgary non-profit organization is stepping up to find a solution to a current challenge: the low percentage of women in the tech industry.
Chic Geek began in Calgary in 2013, after founder Kylie Woods, who at the time was a new graduate interested in technology, startups and entrepreneurship, noticed that there were very few women – if any – at tech and startup events.
“Kylie really wanted to create a community of other women who she could learn from and connect with,” says Cynthia Titchkosky, Executive Director, Chic Geek. “We are really known for bringing women together in a space that allows them to be their authentic selves to connect with like-minded women and learn more about emerging technology.”
According to recent statistics from Feminuity, a consulting firm helping companies build diverse teams and inclusive products and workplaces, just 25 per cent of Canada’s tech force is made up of women. This percentage is due to several factors, Titchkosky says, many of which start in early childhood and continue throughout women’s lives.
“There are a lot of barriers for women throughout their career lifecycle. It starts in early childhood education with a systemic bias for girls, in terms of them choosing courses of study that are not related to tech,” Titchkosky says, adding that there are now a number of programs focused on reducing that bias and getting girls more interested in STEM areas.
Alberta as a whole is in a unique position when it comes to taking the lead in working towards a more inclusive and equal tech industry. The Alberta Technology Deal Flow Study published that of 208 Alberta companies surveyed, 30 per cent have a female founder or co-founder, a number much higher than the rest of the country (at 13 per cent).
Chic Geek has several initiatives focused on creating change, including the annual Geeky Summit, an event that offers skill-based workshops and networking opportunities, as well as ConnectHer, a female-focused networking and recruiting event.
Chic Geek hopes that over the next five years, it can shine a light on career opportunities for women in technology and work with companies to build more inclusive workplaces where women thrive, eventually contributing to a gender equal workforce in the tech ecosystem.
“Calgary's tech ecosystem is relatively young,” Titchkosky says. “We have a unique opportunity as a community to grow with diversity and inclusion practices as a priority early on. Chic Geek brings various stakeholders together including women in tech, community partners and companies where we can learn from each other, measure how we are doing and align towards the same goals.”
“We've built a really tight knit community, and right now we're looking at what else is out there so we can evolve and grow.”
For more information about the organization or upcoming events for women in tech, sign up for Chic Geek’s newsletter.