New Study Shows Low Female Representation in Canadian Tech

A new study is highlighting and trying to change what many in the sector already know: Women are woefully underrepresented in Canada’s the technology industry and especially in leadership roles.

Researching over 930 Canadian tech companies, only five per cent have a solo female founder. When companies with male and female co-founders are factored in, that number rises to 13 per cent.

The report—titled Where’s the Dial Now?—is co-authored by #movethedial, PwC Canada and MaRS and sponsored by Ceridian. It highlights the gender gap in Canadian technology, bringing attention to the low representation of women in powerful roles.

“The report’s purpose is to generate awareness of the gender disparity that exists in Canada’s technology industry and to challenge our leaders to take action and drive positive change,” says #movethedial founder Jodi Kovitz, who is also the CEO of AceTech Ontario.

“This is not a choice, it’s a social and economic necessity. When we don’t have great women leaders, we miss opportunities to collaborate, to bring diverse viewpoints to the table, to address the sector’s growing talent gap, and to create technologies that serve the needs of everyone,” she adds.

Women make up only 13 per cent of the average tech company’s executive team, while over half of tech companies have no female executives at all. The gap rises higher as well, with only eight per cent of directors on boards identifying as women. Close to three-quarters of all Canadian tech boards have no women at all.

A chart showing the lack of female executives.
Women are hugely underrepresented in meaningful roles at Canadian technology companies, according to the latest study by #movethedial.

Apart from companies and boards themselves, another big part of the tech industry is also lacking gender diversity. Venture capital firms on average only report 12 per cent of their partners as women, but 30 per cent of Canadian firms have at least one female partner.

Many people point to the low amount of female STEM graduates as indicating factors for these figures. Female graduates in STEM earn only 29.6 per cent of degrees in STEM faculties, even though women make up around 60 per cent of total university graduates.

“I’d like to see the future of technology created by a diverse set of people—that means getting more girls inspired by the possibilities of technology, more young women studying STEM and computer science and more women making an impact in the technology field,” said Sabrina Geremia, country director for Google Canada.

A chart looking at women in executive roles.
Where’s the Dial Now? broke down the connection between having a female CEO with the number of women on executive teams and boards.

A few figures from the study show that things may be trending in the right direction. In the Branham Group’s top 25 up and coming ICT companies, 24 per cent of companies with available data had females on the founding team, an increase from the 13 per cent reported above. It’s a small sample size but may be indicative of changing tides.

The report also suggests a few ways to contribute to moving the dial.

“Rather than lip service, we need to commit financial and human resources that can be evaluated over time,” said Jessica Yamoah, co-founder of Innovate Inclusion. “Invest in systemic changes, not band-aid, stand-alone initiatives that put organizations with similar interests in competition for limited resources and funding.”

In order to build on what #movethedial has outlined, they suggest championing the career of a woman in your network, sharing a moment where a female moved through the ranks, becoming a partner or volunteer and just simply joining the community and spreading the message.