Geek Speak: Sheila Eddin, B.C. chapter chair for Canadian Women in Technology
As the vice president of transformation at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, Sheila Eddin holds a leadership role in technology. The Vancouver resident knows that women like her are the minority in the tech sector, and she wants to help change this picture.
In June, Eddin became the chair of the B.C. chapter of Canadian Women in Technology. A division of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance, CanWIT is a national volunteer organization that aims to help women enter and succeed in the tech industry. Eddin also sits on the board of directors for B.C. Assessment, which, like ICBC, is a Crown corporation.
On Thursday (December 20), CanWIT B.C. plans to hold a holiday networking event. It’ll take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at Relish GastroPub & Bar (888 Nelson Street).
The Georgia Straight reached Eddin by phone at her Vancouver office.
Why did you get involved with Canadian Women in Technology?
CanWIT’s B.C. chapter supports women in Vancouver’s advanced technology sector through regional programs. The mandate is to assist women entrepreneurs, promote mentorship initiatives, and support programs that aim to increase the number of women in the technology sector and also the number of women in leadership positions through networking and educational events. So I got in because I believe in all of these areas, and I wanted to contribute to my community and my sector.
How would you describe the state of women in technology in B.C.?
Canadian women in general, they make up only 24 percent of the technology workforce and 17 percent are actually in core technology roles, with a very small number in management positions. Another little factoid is that a staggering 52 percent of these highly trained and qualified women actually leave their jobs only after 10 years. In terms of B.C., it’s very similar to the Canadian numbers....
The other thing that’s important when we’re talking about the technology workforce is also the leadership. Thirty-eight percent of the women hold leadership roles in Canada, yet only 16 percent hold leadership roles in the corporate sector. The last thing is that, when you’re looking at boards of directors, 37 percent of boards of directors have no female representation in the corporate sector. I know I’m giving you a lot of factoids, but it just really shows that there is still some work to be done.
How can we increase the numbers of women in technology, especially in the senior roles?
I think through these programs that we have. Obviously, CanWIT is a good example—not the only example. But I think it’s really making sure we have a networking organization to provide guidance, advise, have the networking and educational events, promoting the mentorship initiatives—really supporting various programs that aim to increase the number of women in the tech sector. These organizations—and CanWIT is an example—that’s where the focus is. We have peer mentoring and stuff like that. Obviously, you’re not going to jump from 25 percent to 75 percent, but this is going to help pave the way. That’s one thing.
Another thing is women—the students—as they’re trying to choose routes for themselves, I think it’s important that they shouldn’t feel discouraged from applying to those programs. At universities and colleges, we have to make better awareness amongst the younger women. That’s another thing, I think, we need to do in partnership with the local universities and colleges here.
What do you have planned for the Vancouver chapter of CanWIT?
We have a number of things. We have a monthly breakfast series, where we have a guest speaker in the morning on various topics. We also have a panel-discussion lunch series. We also have a mentorship program that we set up for one-on-one mentorships. Those are just some examples.
Of course, we have networking events as well that we do. So coming up on December 20 we’re doing a networking event. We’ve invited lots of people to come in and mingle and get to know peers or colleagues in other areas of the Vancouver tech market.
When we say “technology”, it doesn’t have to be just techies. It’s not just the old word. It’s a much more expandable term than just someone working doing computer programming.