To celebrate International Women’s Day the Digital Media Zone at Ryerson University hosted the Panel from the Margins. This panel was hosted by Saadia Muzaffar, whose become known as an advocate for women in the tech space, and TechGirls Canada.
The panel included Olivia Chow, Erica Violet-Lee, Foteini Agrafioti, Desmond Cole, Huda Idrees and Zee Adams. According to an article in Maclean’s, women are being forced from careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) through still-engrained habits of sexism.
This is widely explored and validated by the panel, which begins with a conversation with Olivia Chow about her experience in this environment. She’s known widely for her work in politics, having served as both a city councillor and a member of parliament, but has also become known as an advocate for women and minorities.
“It’s really attractive to get to the power centre, but the power centre is not doing what needs to be done” she says when asked about why she’s made this her goal as a public figure.
“There’s not really enough time to be terribly tired or disappointed. You just have to keep going,” she continues.
The panel is then opened up to Violet-Lee, Agrafioti, Cole, Idrees and Adams.
Idrees, who’s currently the head of product and design at Wealthsimple, speaks on her experiences as a woman in the tech space. “Everything I’ve been part of I’ve tried to push that we need to be representative of our audience. The huge part is lifting up other minorities around you and bringing them into the fold.”
Idrees goes on to say that she’s used to feeling like she doesn’t belong. Now in a management role at a popular startup, she laughs that she has to justify herself to the people that she’s hiring.
“Women don’t just have to be good, they have to be ten times as good to earn the same level of respect,” she said.
According to a study released by the UCLA Luskin Centre for Innovation recently released a report that outlines several tactics for increasing the concentration of women in STEM careers. According to the report, women often feel like imposters when applying for jobs in technology, and are therefore less likely to advance professionally.
Agrafioti, the founder of Stealth Startup, adds that it’s not just men that contribute to this ongoing issue.
“It is equally as important to talk about cases where women also contribute to the problem,” she said.
Agrafioti describes a scenario where she was in a hiring role and found herself being discriminatory against a young, female applicant.
“I think it’s very important that we understand that this is not a men’s problem. It’s a people problem.”
Muzaffar states that her goal as a participant and influencer in this space is “to organize and generate a generation of change makers,” and that’s exactly what she and her fellow panelists have planned to do.