Geek Speak: Tabitha Creighton, Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance Women in Technology Forum

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      Tabitha Creighton is passionate about helping women advance in the technology sector. In November 2008, the 37-year-old, Toronto-born business-strategy consultant helped found the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance Women in Technology Forum, which officially launched in June 2009. Creighton, who lives in New Westminster, is one of the chapter's cochairs and also serves on CATA WIT’s national executive committee.

      On December 3, the B.C. chapter will hold its fall signature lunch at Simon Fraser University’s Segal Graduate School of Business in downtown Vancouver. The event will feature presentations on career management by female technology executives.

      Creighton works as the director of strategy consulting for KnowledgeTech, a Vancouver-based management and information technology consulting firm. She also sits on the board of directors for the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.

      The Georgia Straight reached Creighton on her cellphone in Seattle.

      Why did you get involved with the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance Women in Technology Forum?

      To me, it really fills a gap that I see in the workplace and the community, in terms of being able to have an organization that’s focused exclusively on women advocacy issues in the field of technology, and I’m really passionate about that. So, it was a good area for me to invest some of my time.

      What do you hope the B.C. chapter of CATA WIT will achieve?

      We’re really hoping that we’re going to be able to directly impact the number of young women who are choosing technology as a career path for themselves, and that we create new opportunities of business for women who are already in the technology field.

      What should attendees expect to learn at your chapter’s fall lunch event?

      They’re really going to be looking at finding new ways for them to achieve what they want to achieve both in the workplace and at home. So, they’re going to be getting practical guidance, information-sharing with other women who are going through similar kinds of issues. They’re going to be getting networking opportunities. So, we’re going to be creating connections for them that they can take away and continue to work with after the event is over. And ultimately just create a place for sharing, which is really kind of lacking for women in the field of technology.

      Why are women under-represented in Canada’s technology sector?

      That’s a good question. You know, we sponsored—CATA WIT sponsored—a study not too long ago, looking to answer that very question, and I think there’s a few reasons. I think fields of technology are younger than some more established fields, like medicine and law, and I think that the branding of technology as a lucrative career for women just hasn’t been there. The awareness factor hasn’t been there.

      I think some gender stereotypes still exist about what kind of career you could have that haven’t made it very attractive for women on the surface. They don’t realize that you don’t have to be a traditional sort of programmer in order to work within the field of technology. I think that’s another reason. And I think that, just from an educational perspective, there are more opportunities than maybe have been made really available for young women to be encouraged to emphasize science and technology when they’re in school.

      How can companies promote the advancement of women in the sector?

      Well, a couple different ways. Some of it is just going to be visibility of career options and directly recruit women right out of university. So, making the attempt, as silly as that sounds, would actually make a difference. So, creating those programs. I think having the kind of flexibility that maybe women don’t realize is there within technology companies more visible would also make more lucrative places for women to succeed. And I think, finally, working with the government to take advantage of maybe some of the programs that they have to stream women into the technology field would be a great opportunity too.

      What kind of events will the B.C. chapter of CATA WIT be holding in the future?

      Well, we do a monthly breakfast event, which focuses on a particular topic of discussion that we then take away and use as part of our advocacy and lobbying efforts. And then we also have an evening networking event, which just gives women an opportunity to come out and do something fun together and just get to know other women in the sector. Of course, we’ll have a spring signature event similar to the fall event that we’re doing.

      We’re looking at other things, like speed mentoring, where you’d be able to sit down with a number of different experts in different areas of technology to ask questions, get advice—that sort of thing. So, those will be primary types of events we see for 2010, as well as maybe focusing directly on either the high-school or university environment to really help women understand what kind of options they have once they get out of school.

      Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at