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Kanata’s tech community gathered to mark International Women’s Day with an event themed ‘Forging Forward’.

Through shared experiences, insights, and commitments, the International Women’s Day event not only celebrated the achievements of women in technology but also set the stage for ongoing dialogue and action towards a more inclusive and equitable industry.

Rich in discussions on gender equity, diversity, and inclusion, the morning kicked off with powerful opening remarks from Jenna Sudds, MP for Kanata-Carleton and Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development.

Sudds greeted the attendees and noted “There’s a lot of kick-ass folks in this crowd here,” immediately establishing a tone of camaraderie and empowerment. Her encouragement to “take a moment to reconnect” wasn’t just about fostering new connections but a reminder of the invaluable role of networking.

Sudds shared her insights on the gender wage gap in Canada, noting that most women are paid only 90 cents for every dollar a man makes in a similar role.

“There’s lots of work still to do. That’s not doom and gloom, that’s just our reality,” she said.

A panel discussion on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, moderated by Veronica Farmer, VP of marketing at Wesley Clover International, featured voices from various corners of the tech industry.

Panelists included Lucy Bojilova of Ericsson, Candace Labelle of Calian, and Behnaz Refahi, a recent University of Ottawa graduate.

Labelle delved into Calian’s DEI+B commitment, emphasizing the significance of ‘belonging’.

The B in the company’s DEI+B initiative was a really purposeful part, she explained.

“When people have a feeling of belonging and they bring their whole selves to the workplace, and productivity skyrockets,” she said.

Labelle highlighted the importance of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) as foundational to diversity programs, providing a platform for employees to voice their concerns and seek support. She also pointed out the necessity of scrutinising how companies treat and promote women, stating, “You won’t know that you’re not including people until it’s far too late.”

Bojilova shared her passion for the Technovation program, a global challenge that introduces girls aged 10-18 to mobile app development.

“It is so inspiring to see these girls coming to the program. They came up with the idea of a mobile app. Then they go through the lifecycle of how that idea will become a product,” Bojilova said.

She encouraged attendees to “take action, be aware of the differences and make sure everyone is included and has a seat at the table.”

Refahi spoke about her experience with the Women in Math club, emphasizing the role of awareness in fostering inclusion.

The industry’s denial of barriers for women underscored a critical need for advocacy and change, she added, also highlighting the importance of challenging stereotypes and creating new role models.

Cathy Curry, City Councillor for Ward 4, concluded the event and spoke of the collective commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion within Kanata’s tech ecosystem.

As Kanata’s tech community continues to forge forward, the reflections and aspirations shared during this event served as a powerful reminder of the work that remains, and the collective effort required to achieve true gender equity and diversity in the tech sector.

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