Title: The Future of Women in STEM According to Jaime Leverton

On November 29th, our very own Jaime Leverton, VP & GM Canada and APAC, was featured as a speaker at the Information Technology Association of Canada’s (ITAC) Women in Leadership session.

Created in in partnership with Canadian Women in Communications and Technology (WCT), this speaker series was designed to showcase successful female role models from the technology world as thought leaders, to help encourage more women to seek our leadership roles. As someone who has been a driving force behind moving the needle on female participation and leadership in the ICT industry, Jaime was a natural choice.

Below are highlights of Jaime’s discussion with Mary Whittle, Chair of ITAC’s Diversity Committee, which touch on her role as a transformational leader in an ever-changing environment, and how she handles her position in an industry that is lagging in female leadership.

Mary Whittle: It is not often we see women in the most senior leadership roles in tech. Tell us about your career journey and how you go to where you are today?

Jaime Leverton: I’ve loved tech from an early age and it’s always been a part of my life. I was coding at the age of 10, even though I didn’t really know it had a name at the time, and after I graduated from Dalhousie with my MBA, Marketing Informatics, I was recruited from IBM and landed my first job.

Once I had a couple of years under my belt, I realized I loved leading big changes and transformations within companies and actively sought out those roles. I became way more intentional in my career, taking on roles at Bell Canada, Bell, BlackBerry, National Bank and now, Cogeco Peer 1. My current role is a culmination of a career spent in the technology industry and every day is fast, exciting and fun. I have always wanted to live and breathe what I do, and I’ve really embraced these ‘passion projects’.

MW: Your career has been nothing but linear. It has also be shaped by a passion for transformation, impact and value creation. What is it about transformational leadership that you love so much?

JL: I’ve learned that the ‘linear’ career path isn’t always the ‘right’ career path, and my entire career was just that. I’ve joined companies that were at critical points of their own transformation, either disrupting traditional markets or needing to reinvent themselves for the future. In all cases I was in the midst of, or in many cases leading, significant change. Transformation wasn’t something I set out to become an expert at, but when I discovered my passion for it, I focused on making it my expertise and actively sought out these opportunities.  Transformations are a bit like long road trips; if you’re not focused, if you don’t have the right roadmap and if you are afraid to ask the right questions, you’re going to get lost.

(L-R) Mary Whittle, Chair, Diversity Committee, ITAC speaks with Jaime Leverton, VP & GM, Canada and APAC, Cogeco Peer 1 on The Future of Women in STEM on November 29, 2017 at ITAC-WCT Women in Leadership Event.  (CP1 Photo/Claudine Dumont)

MW: You’re a woman working in the tech industry.  How would you characterize the current state of women in tech in Canada?

JL:  It’s amazing being a woman in tech, but there just aren’t enough of us. Many of you probably saw the study earlier this month from PwC, MaRS and MoveTheDial that found Canadian technology companies are slow on the uptake of female leadership. Women make up just 13% of the tech workforce in this country, only 5% of Canadian tech companies have a female CEO and more than half don’t have even a single female executive.

But I see some signs of change. Look at Cogeco Peer 1 – the top three global leaders are women. How great is it to work for a company like that? And in the industry we are seeing that there’s more awareness than ever before, women are now encouraged to not be something other than themselves, and we have better role models that keep more of us in the game and believing it is possible to be a female exec in tech.

I have two daughters at home, and I don’t want them to come of age and pursue careers in business or technology in a world that still looks too much like the world I broke into in 2000.

It’s not just the future of our industry that is at stake. The great jobs of tomorrow are being created in the STEM fields, and we owe it to all of our daughters to pave the way for a brighter tomorrow. But at the end of the day, I can’t think of any industry that is more exciting and has more opportunity for the future.

MW: What advice would you give young women working in the tech sector and looking to take on a leadership role for the first time?

JL: First off – congratulations!  And then, a few things … First, you’re brave. You need to be courageous to be in the tech industry — especially as a woman. Second, trust yourself. You wouldn’t be put in this position unless the company believed you could do it.   

MW: If you were the Prime Minister of Canada for three months, what would be the one thing you would do/change?

JL: When it comes to the investments we make, there’s no greater investment that all of us can make right now than finding new ways to encourage more women to join our industry. Until there are more women in tech, and in the senior roles, young women will not see themselves in those positions, and will not aspire to those posts. So if I only had three months, I’d want to be targeted with my efforts, and I think I’d focus on girls in STEM — and not at the high school or university level – I think I’d focus on national programs at the elementary level to encourage girls to get interested in technology. Overall, I am optimistic for the future of women in STEM. As we see more women joining the leadership ranks, naturally that will then have an impact on the next generation of women and I can’t wait to see what comes next.