June 19, 2017
Osler has long been committed to initiatives that promote the advancement of women. As part of its pledge to support gender diversity and equality, Osler was proud to host “Changing the face of tech leadership in Canada” on Thursday, June 15, a #MoveTheDial event aimed at providing women in the technology sector with the platform to amplify their voices and foster connections with each other, journalists and conference producers through the female founder ecosystem. The event, co-sponsored by Osler, the City of Toronto and Informed Opinions, was followed by a networking opportunity for speakers and audience members.
Colleen Moorehead, Osler’s Chief Client Officer and a driving force behind Osler’s sponsorship of the event and support of #MoveTheDial — an organization geared towards making Canada one of the world’s most conducive ecosystems to attract, retain and support women in the technology space — provided the opening remarks at the event, the second in a series of #MoveTheDial initiatives. Chad Bayne, a partner in Osler’s Emerging Companies Group, also addressed the audience and reiterated Osler’s endorsement of diversity initiatives. “Osler is proud to support the tech community in Toronto and also the diversity within it,” he said, adding that events like this are important to him on a personal level as well.
Toronto Mayor John Tory spoke at the event, which drew more than 100 attendees, including female founders, funders and executives from the technology space.
Mayor Tory thanked Osler for hosting the event and talked about the underrepresentation of women in the tech sector, which he said was “not right” and “not smart, because we are denying ourselves, by not having in those rooms, the full pool of talent that we have access to in the city.” In order to help encourage a greater representation of women in the tech space, he pledged to prioritize supporting events that show a “real commitment to encouraging diversity in the people they have on their panels … and have made a real effort to make sure they include women and people from all diverse backgrounds.”
Discussing the bourgeoning tech sector in Toronto and in Canada as a whole, he said one of the most alluring features that is attracting talent to the tech scene in this country is its overall value system that espouses diversity and equality, which he said could help Canada be “seen as the one that has done the most to achieve a degree of gender equity in the leadership of our tech field.”
This core value system is one of the features that attracted Raquel Urtasun — a global leader in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) and a co-founder of the Vector Institute — to Toronto. Osler was proud to represent Raquel in her hiring as the head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group — a research institute dedicated to self-driving. Raquel told the audience she wanted to move to Toronto because it is “a great place to live in and it celebrates diversity, which is very important to me.… My values really align with Canadian values.”
Raquel, who was born and raised in a small town in Spain, offered a detailed visual presentation on the application of AI to self-driving cars. She also said her path to success in the tech industry wasn’t necessarily a smooth one, but that, she said, never stopped her from pursuing her career goals.
“My life as a woman in tech has really not been easy,” she said. “The thing that I really learned is that I started from a little place … from nothing at all to where I am today. What I learned is never give up, no matter what happens to you. Stand up and go do it again. If you have the right attitude, you will succeed.”
Jodi Kovitz, CEO of AceTech and founder of #MoveTheDial, echoed this sentiment and told the audience that supporting the success of women in technology is the ultimate goal of #MoveTheDial.
“We believe that advancing the full talent pool with diversity of thought will ultimately increase our nation’s economic growth and prosperity,” she said. “We aim to connect, convene and collaborate to provide women with resources, training and networks to support their full participation and growth within the Canadian tech sector.”
One of the ways to ensure sustainable growth for women in the tech sector, according to Informed Opinions founder Shari Graydon, is through amplifying their voices in the media by owning their expertise. Shari told the audience that Raquel’s story was a great example to women everywhere and encouraged them to “be a role model for young women, to remind people that yes, women can be high-tech rock stars.”
Shari shared personal anecdotes with the audience and offered practical tips for engaging with the media and raising one’s profile, and says one way to network is through expertwomen.ca. She also stressed the fact that it takes a collective effort to make a difference.
“We need to stop silencing ourselves in anticipation that others will silence us and if we’re not all willing to step up and speak the truths in our organizations, in media, providing our informed opinions and analysis — and not just about women’s challenges in the sector — but of the issues that we know and are knowledgeable about enough to add value, that dial isn’t moving,” she said. “So it really does take all of us to be speaking in every context that we have.”
Osler holds a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion in our policies and practice, and was recently named one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers (2017) for the second straight year. Osler is committed to developing processes and programs to support the professional advancement of our female lawyers at all levels and in all areas of expertise, as well as the balance between career and family demands.