A grassroots group comes to Toronto to hear from women in tech

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A grassroots group comes to Toronto to hear from women in tech

Piled into a RV, a group of women is travelling across the country trying to figure out who Canada's women in tech are and what challenges they face in a male dominated industry.

One of the reasons Alicia Close started Women in Tech World (WinTech), was because she realized how poorly represented women are in the industry when she was trying to help her former employer recruit them.

"We didn't have a lot of women applicants on the data analysis side of things," Close told CBC Toronto. "I really wanted to understand how to help women get involved and how to support them."

WinTech is an entirely grassroots organization and has about 100 volunteers. It started with a week long event and is now conducting a cross-Canada tour called Driving WinTech.

Going to 30 places in Canada

Close and her partners are stopping in 30 locations to hold conferences. Each one features local female trailblazers and then turns into an open discussion where women in the audience can share their thoughts and stories.

The event, underway this week at Twitter's Toronto office, has brought in about 100 women and a few men who champion the cause.

"I've had more than one experience working as a woman in tech being talked over," said Sofie Bedard, who attended the Toronto event with some friends.

"It's nice to hear that other women are going through the same things and how they dealt with things," said attendee Demi Pinsonneault. "It's nice to be able to give advice and take advice."

Women say tech should be promoted in elementary school

The information gathered from the talks is then compiled by WinTech's head of research, Melanie Ewan.

The idea is to identify the demographic of women in tech, what their experiences have been, how to support them, and how to promote the industry to the younger generation.

A common theme they're hearing is to encourage girls to get interested in tech in elementary school. 

"There's not a lot of research on women in tech in Canada," said Ewan. "We spent about a month figuring out who we are inviting to the conversation, who exactly are women in tech, who is the government targeting when they're doing all this programming. And the answer was, there is no answer."

So far the group has spoken to about 550 women across the country. The last community conversation is in St. John's on Nov. 6.

After that, the group will review its findings and publish a report.