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Photo: William Iven / FirmBee
It’s March 8th, the day that we celebrate women, something that we should be doing regardless everyday, but today is a special one. International Women’s Day is recognized all around the world, empowering women as they inspire nations, each other and young girls everywhere.
Women have made great strides in political, economic, social and tech movements. Canadian women are succeeding in the tech industry in ways they never have before. In 2019, a career in tech is the perfect place for women to work with men and each other to move towards equality and unity in the workforce.
And they’re dedicating some of their valuable time to reach out to young women and girls to incite in them the encouragement to break down the barriers that still exist for women working in technology.
The women on this list are just eight of many that we need to honour as influential females in tech. They bring inspiration, passion, and their own innovative drive to the field of technology, motivating Canadian women to reach for and attain their dreams.
- Lily Tse – Founder, ThinkDirty
“I think most women are harder on themselves, at the same time they are also more worried about how they will be perceived by others. The combination of self-doubt and self-consciousness comes from society’s expectation of women being nurturing relationship builders. These sometimes can be a burden and prevent us from being assertive and ambitious about what we really want.”
An entrepreneur with degrees in business and design from York University and the University of Toronto, Lily Tse worked for over thirteen years in various marketing agencies, such as Sid Lee and Idea Couture. In 2013 she launched ThinkDirty for iOS, a phone app that helps consumers shop for beauty products that don’t contain any ingredients harmful to humans or the environment. Her advice to women in tech entrepreneurship: Stop thinking about pleasing everyone just to be liked.1
- Katherine Regnier – Founder, Coconut Software
“In my acceptance speech at the Prairie Region ceremony, I made a point of saying Canada wants more Women in Tech and more Women Entrepreneurs in general, therefore, it’s all of our JOB to execute. I am passionate about demonstrating and leading by example that we can do this from anywhere and especially in Canada.”
Coconut Software provides appointment scheduling software solutions for national Canadian clients, including Rogers and Telus. Katherine Regnier is the founder of this hugely successful company which she says started with her looking for a solution to the problem of spending too much time on the phone booking appointments. After four years of committed work getting Coconut off the ground, Katherine’s dedication has earned her the 2018 Startup Canada Woman Entrepreneur Award in the Prairies.2,3
- Komal Singh – Author, Ara the Star Engineer
“I’ve never felt more comfortable as a woman in tech, even though majority of people are men here.”
Komal Singh is an engineering program manager at Google. As a woman who knows what it’s like to work in a male dominated field, Komal is supporting women in tech through her first book for young children. After being told by her young daughter that “only boys are engineers”, Komal decided to write a very successful children’s book about Ara, a young girl who uses numbers, coding, and her own creativity to solve a problem.4
- Nadia Hamilton – Founder, Magnusmode
“My advice to women is be fearless: No one can hold you back but yourself.”
Taking inspiration from a strong brother who lives with autism, Nadia Hamilton’s company, Magnusmode, has developed a mobile and online program that allows people with special needs to live with greater independence. As a founder and managing director in tech, Nadia used her skills as an app designer to follow her dreams of making a difference without letting anything hold her back.5,6
- Chakameh Shafii – Founder/CEO, TranQool
“I talk about the tech world needing more women, but it’s not just about gender. For instance, how women are treated around the world differs country by country. How we interact with other forms of difference – class, education, race, etc. – also differs as you move around the world.”
Founder and CEO of TranQool, a software platform that makes mental health services easier for people to access, Chakameh Shafii jumped into the startup world all on her own. With a master’s degree in engineering, Chakameh originally thought she would climb the corporate ladder until recognizing that she was more interested in small startus. Her own personal experience with anxiety gave her the idea for TranQool and her engineering background provided her with the skills to design this ground-breaking tech platform.7
- Natalie Cartwright – Co-Founder, Finn AI
“I’m here to tell you it’s not all bad news out there for women in tech. From personal experience, I know that being a female founder of a tech company can be a competitive advantage.”
Natalie Cartwright is the co-founder behind Finn AI, a virtual assistant designed for personal finance and banking. Considered to be a trend-setter in the world of financial technology, Natalie believes that tech organizations are recognizing and understanding the value of having diverse female founders. And that the time is here for women to jump on these opportunities and show what they can do in the tech industry.8
- Nargiz Mammadova – Founder, Destin AI
“When I enter a room of investors or attend competitions, getting pointed out as a female founder is a bit surprising to me… Together with my team I focus on producing good results and a good product, making sure that we add value to the ecosystem.”
As a woman and an immigrant to Canada, Nargiz Mammadova has overcome these obstacles as a visible minority in the tech field to become the founder of Destin AI. This artificial intelligence powered software aims to make it easier for immigrants to understand and navigate Canada’s immigration system.9
- Eva Wong – Co-Founder, Borrowell
“I could have never predicted that I would have been a woman in tech, not even as recently as three years ago. This is my shout-out to other women as well — the field of technology may not be what you think it is.”
Co-founder Eva Wong has taken Borrowell from a small startup company in 2014 to one of the biggest financial technology companies in Canada. With a background in business, Wong was often told that being a woman, she wasn’t qualified enough to start her own venture. But she faced the challenges and stepped into the tech world even when she was told she didn’t have the right background.10,11
The women on this list are just a small sampling of women who are inspiring the next generation of female innovators and leaders in Canada’s tech industry. As a woman myself working in IT, I’m passionate about all Canadian women being able to believe in themselves and just go for it. Careers in tech, engineering, math, the sciences, and communications…the sky is the limit. And so this day, International Women’s Day, is the perfect day to celebrate the success of Canadian women across the country!
1. Admin. (n.d). Liberata Life: Meet Lily Tse, CEO and Founder of Think Dirty App. Vita Liberata. Retrieved on March 06, 2019 from https://vitaliberata.co.uk/blogs/liberata-life-meet-lily-tse-ceo-and-founder-think-dirty/3
2. Innovation Place. (2018, May 28). coconut software’s katherine regnier wins 2018 startup canada woman entrepreneur award. Innovation Place. Retrieved on March 06, 2019 from http://www.innovationplace.com/thescene/2018/coconut-award.shtml
3. Lavoie, J. (2018, November 15). Katherine Regnier – A Role Model for Women in STEM Entrepreneurship. Startup News Canada. Retrieved on March 06, 2019 from https://www.startupnews.ca/2018/11/katherine-regnier-a-role-model-for-women-in-stem-entrepreneurship/
4. Ranade, Y. (2018, October 25). Children’s book, ‘Ara the Star Engineer,’ Shows STEM is for Everyone. WhatsYourTech. Retrieved on March 06, 2019 from https://whatsyourtech.ca/2018/10/25/childrens-book-ara-the-star-engineer-shows-stem-is-for-everyone/
5. Tech Girls Canada (n.d). Nadia Hamilton. Tech Girls Canada. Retrieved on March 06, 2019 from https://www.techgirls.ca/nadia-hamilton
6. Evans, KD. (2017, November 20). Nadia Hamilton was inspired to launch MagnusCards by her brother with autism. The Undefeated. Retrieved on March 06, 2019 from https://theundefeated.com/features/nadia-hamilton-inspired-to-launch-magnuscards-by-her-brother-with-autism/
7. Palios, S. (2018, September). TranQool’s Chakameh Shafii: Tech needs diversity to thrive. Elevate. Retrieved on March 06, 2019 from https://elevatetechfest.com/30-global-ideas/tranqool-chakameh-shafii-tech-diversity/
8. Betakit. (2015, September 11). Payso co-founder Nat Cartwright: Women founders in tech can turn the tables. Betakit. Retrieved on March 06, 2019 from https://betakit.com/payso-co-founder-nat-cartwright-women-founders-in-tech-can-turn-the-tables/
9. Jesus, D. (n.d). International Women’s Day Special Series (04). Legal Innovation Zone. Retrieved on March 06, 2019 from http://www.legalinnovationzone.ca/blog/international-womens-day-special-series-04/
10. Notable Life. (2017, March 08). #NotableWomen in Tech: Eva Wong, Co-Founder and COO of Borrowell. Notable Life. Retrieved on March 06, 2019 from https://notablelife.com/borrowell-women-in-tech-eva-wong/
11. Motta, M. (2018, October 16). Woman of the Week: Eva Wong. Womens Post. Retrieved on March 06, 2019 from https://www.womenspost.ca/woman-week-eva-wong/