The digital technology sector is no exception, as was made painfully clear with examples from digital leaders Uber and Google in the past few months.
Tackling issues that specifically affect women in the workplace is no small task, but we celebrate the women who take on the challenge. At Valtech, our very own Roxana Brongo, Creative Lead , Innovation and New Technologies is one of them. She has created an inspiring space within our digital agency in Montreal to encourage women to progress, one conversation at a time.
Why did you create a group at Valtech Canada focused on issues faced by women?
RB: The idea grew after we created a channel on Slack (the chat we use to communicate internally) dedicated to the women in the agency. That virtual environment gave us the opportunity to share articles and other sources of information about women in the workplace and the issues that we face, particularly in the digital industry.
But we wanted to go further than reading articles about these issues. We wanted to have a real discussion, an exchange of ideas and share our challenges in a more direct way. That’s how the idea of creating a group that would meet regularly came about. We called it 50 + 50. When you’re in a group setting and actually expressing yourself out loud, you realize that you’re not alone, and that other people who’ve had the same problem can share their solutions.
What happens during these group meetings?
RB: It’s an informal meetup that we have right after work, so usually from 5 to 7. There’s always a casual vibe, as if we were having drinks with friends. We start by putting the theme we chose prior to the meeting within a context. Then, we make it practical with either a workshop, a solutions-oriented brainstorm or an open discussion. Sometimes we invite panelists or watch an inspiring video. The goal is to make things happen, to get that nudge that can help us push our careers forward and to inspire each other. We invite our male colleagues to join us, hence the name 50+50!
What’s your take on women’s place in digital and their evolution?
RB: I think there’s definitely a momentum on the topic right now, with #Metoo and other movements highlighting behaviours and corporate cultures that are toxic for women. On the bright side, the Icelandic government and its equal pay law is a positive example of a great leap for gender equality that made waves around the world. We have to build on the conversations happening right now to make sure that we continue to talk about diversity. We also need to include men in the discussion to leverage change. It’s not just up to women and minorities to solve the inclusion problem by themselves! Everyone needs to work together to create inclusive environments where women can take their place and rise to the top.
What are your thoughts on women leaders in tech and digital?
RB: When we think about startups, IT companies or even digital agencies, we still don’t see that many spaces where gender equality and a diverse mix of people are the norm. I think Valtech Montreal is an exception to this. When they find out our leadership team is 50% female, people are always pleasantly surprised. It’s also inspiring… especially to women, since sometimes we lack role models. Here in Montreal, 55% of all employees are women. We’re a great mix of people, and the varied points of view add depth to the exchanges we have when we’re working on projects.
Do you have any advice for women starting out in this field?
RB: What I would say to the new generation of women, and we’re constantly realizing this in our group meetings, is that there are so many benefits that come with having a space dedicated to talking about these issues with your colleagues. It’s very different from talking to family or friends, who don’t necessarily face the same situations or know what you’re talking about. If these groups don’t exist in your place of work, create them! We find strength through unity, so it’s important not to be isolated. Many women are going through the same challenges that you are. Also, groups like these are a great opportunity to network and improve other soft skills. ;)