Digital and Data Roundtable Summary: September 19, 2018—Calgary, AB

Hosted by: Dr. Sarah Lubik
Area of Focus: Supporting and Empowering Women

Highlights of Discussion

Supporting and empowering women for the digital and data-driven economy requires supporting and empowering women in Canada’s overall economy. The conversations addressing this subject need to be more inclusive and broader, with participation from both males and females representing all walks of life. Initiatives aimed at lowering barriers also need to be tailored to different groups and needs.

Women today have access to participate in Canada’s economy more than ever before, but there is still expressed concern regarding the longevity of current policies. Policies in place are seen as lacking support for primary care givers and the self-employed/entrepreneurs, and this continues to have an effect on female promotion, work-life balance and ability to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.  Policy is also desired in increasing female representation in corporate and academic leadership roles. Although diversifying leadership has positive results, women continue to struggle in finding opportunities for promotion and often feel they are navigating archaic male-dominated systems.

To benefit from women participating in Canada’s economy; there is a need to modernize and balance policies and regulations. There is a need to find what measures can incentivise diversification and discourage restrictive practices. There is also a need to adjust current, and establish new, regulations as well as create more responsibility for monitoring and enforcement.

Canadians are struggling in identifying what female leadership looks like. They are asking for more female role models for themselves and for their children. They want to learn more about women in Canadian history. They want to know more about what women are currently doing and they want more women recognized for their accomplishments. People know women are doing great things in Canada, but Canadians in general struggle to identify who’s doing what.

Opportunities / Considerations / Challenges

Governmental Regulations and Supports
Although there is recognition of new federal government led initiatives, specifically supporting female education and workplace participation, there is a need for more formal and longer-term solutions. Canada needs to ensure continual workplace and educational opportunities for females. There is a desire to modernize labour laws, as well as a desire to establish a regulatory body in order to increase accountability and establish a long-term commitment in supporting female educational and workplace conditions.
The Canadian Workplace
Businesses in Canada need to continue to modernize the work environment for caregivers (including: medical, child, senior, and elderly care). The Canadian workforce is looking for a cultural shift, where females are promoted earlier, more diversity targets are established, pay structures are disclosed, and caregivers are provided additional financial supports. This workplace shift is expected to only happen with a balance of both governmental sanctions and financial incentives.  These supports also need to apply to female entrepreneurs and the self-employed.
To engage in the digital and data-driven economy, females require skills to bridge the digital divide. There is a need to make education more accessible and affordable with tools such as targeted sponsorships and grants, as well as more programs with built-in financial supports such as paid coops and internships. There is an opportunity to modify curriculum to include more training in specific subjects (like coding) to more general skills (like leadership, and negotiations).
 Recognition of Female Accomplishments
When people are recognized for accomplishments, others are inspired to follow. There is an expressed desire to have more females recognized for their achievements. Canadians want to identify with others who have succeeded, and females want to know who they can look up to, and who can be their mentors. Recent changes to the Canadian Research Chairs demonstrated a focused policy change that quickly and efficiently provided much needed female academic support. Now there is a desire to take it further with formally recognizing more females in areas such as the Order of Canada, and less formal recognitions such as commercial-style recognitions of females in technology and females in history.
More Consultation Required
In order to support and empower women, the conversation needs to be more inclusive. Consultations need to happen with both males and females as well as with those who are working and those who are not. As diverse as the Canadian population, so too must be the diversity into building new policies and programs.

Ideas / Outcomes

Regulatory Reform
There is a desire to increase regulations in order to ensure women are more fairly supported in Canada. There is a need to review current labour laws to ensure women are paid and promoted more equitably and overlooked less often. Introducing regulations also requires tools and techniques for monitoring and enforcement.  
Policy and Tax Reform
There is a need for an increased gender lens in tax reform. This applies to both personal and corporate taxes. Women need more support as caregivers and as employees. Businesses should be incentivised to include females in all levels of the organization and provide opportunities for development and promotion. Publicly traded governing boards also need to show more diversity and this can be supported through both policy and tax reforms.
Showcasing Canadian Female
Canadians have a desire to learn more about female accomplishments. From the Order of Canada to Canadian heritage moments, females have been underrepresented and often overlooked. All levels of government have an opportunity to showcase females who have helped define our communities. There is a strong desire for women to identify what has been done in the past and aspire to what can be done in the future.
Work reform
A flexible work hour schedule program to accommodate care-givers and others facing barriers of working regular hours, including covering costs of childcare for afterhours work, as well as subsidies to companies to install tech that could accommodate remote work. Supports, training, incentives and celebrations should be explored to promote open-minded, and inclusivity-minded leadership.
Increased effort and resources in schools on coaching and helping young women make non-traditional educational and career choices.

Attendee List

  1. Creative Destructive Lab Calgary
  2. ParkChamp
  3. Startup Calgary
  4. Veerum
  5. Hunter Hub (University of Calgary)
  6. Cenovus
  7. Calgary Drop In and Rehab Centre Society
  8. Futurpreneur
  9. University of Calgary
  10. Venture Connection Incubator (Simon Fraser University)
  11. Borden Ladner Gervais LLP (Driven by Women Initiative)
  12. Ammolite Strategies Inc.
  13. Chic Geek
  14. Technovation