Techopia Live joined hundreds of Ottawa business leaders at L-Spark’s Female Founders and Funders event on Wednesday, where Willis College unveiled a new scholarship with the same goal as the event itself: encouraging young women to pursue careers in technology.
Erin Blaskie, who last week officially stepped into the director of marketing role at the Kanata-based SaaS accelerator, told Techopia Live why L-Spark gathered more than 250 people for an event highlighting women in the tech sector.
“I hope we get to a point where we don’t need to have events like this. This should just be a normal, everyday occurrence,” she said. Blaskie recalled telling her seven-year-old daughter about the event and hearing about her excitement to lead a business one day.
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“She won’t have those aspirations unless we’re showing her the way,” Blaskie said.
Elevate International founder Solange Tuyishime, whose organization helps to inspire and empower girls around the world, told Techopia Live that events such as these are critical to show that success in business is possible for women and visible minorities.
“You’ve seen what a white CEO looks like numerous times. It’s rare that a black, female woman gets to meet a room of 50 CEOs who are black and female. It’s rare that women see their own kind or their own people who look like them, who have come from the same places as them, from the same background, hold leadership positions,” Tuyishime said.
She continued: “So when you dream of becoming a leader, you don’t know what that looks like. You’re stepping into the unknown. These types of events are what make us normal, what make us feel like perseverance and persistence and hard work are what we are about, and there’s many just like us.”
Recently, L-Spark generated a list of more than 200 female founders and funders in Canada and made it available to the public. Blaskie says she was tired of hearing the line from event and conference organizers that they’d like to put female speakers in their lineup, but didn’t know where to find any.
“I wanted to take that excuse away,” she said.
Both Blaskie and Tuyishime are on the trustee board for Willis College’s new scholarship aimed at bringing more women into the traditionally male-majority tech sector. The Women in Technology Scholarship, announced at Wednesday’s event, is valued at $25,000 and will be awarded to three women in the college’s cybersecurity, advanced network security or mobile software development programs over the next three years.
“It’s allowing girls and women, who would not have the opportunity otherwise to pursue their education in technology, to actually lead a career and make a difference,” Tuyishime told Techopia Live.