Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that the deadline for submissions was Sept. 9, 2017 and that the winners would be announced at an Oct. 2 event. As of Sept. 24, 2017, the deadline has been extended and the event rescheduled for next March.
After honouring 50 inspiring women in Europe’s tech industry and another 50 in South Africa’s, a not-for-profit wants to do the same for the great white north.
Inspiring Fifty – Canada, an independent organization supported by the governments of Canada and the Netherlands, is seeking out the 50 most inspirational women from Canada’s’s technology and innovation sectors, with the goal of honouring them at an event next spring and creating an open database for other women in tech who might be seeking advice, or event organizers who might want to book them as speakers in the future.
“Canada has an amazing tech ecosystem, but whether it’s startups or enterprises, the industry lags behind when it comes to supporting women, especially in leadership roles,” project lead Ria Lupton tells ITBusiness.ca. “The Inspiring Fifty is one way of addressing that problem – as a woman in tech and a person of colour, I know firsthand how important role models can be.”
The organization is presently looking for, in Lupton’s words, “role models and trailblazers” in seven categories – enterprise; startups; diversity and inclusion; learning and education; not-for-profit; VC and funders; mentorship; and emerging leaders – and selecting a jury to choose the top 50.
“A lot of tech events are focused on startups, but I think this is an amazing opportunity to not only recognize them, but those outside the startup ecosystem that have contributed to the Canadian tech landscape as well, such as academics, policy makers, and more,” she says.
The winners, who will be announced at an Ottawa event sponsored by the Canadian government and Dutch embassy in March 2018, will then be added to a global database including biographical and – should they choose – contact information via social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn, where prospective mentees or companies can approach them.
“A lot of times companies will say they’ve tried to book a woman in tech to speak at their event, but couldn’t find anyone, so now we’re providing this open database where they can find and reach out to them,” says Lupton, who has both a background in marketing for tech startups and a history of leading similar initiatives, including the Toronto chapters of SheWorx and Women Who Code.
“I assume there are thousands out there, but even being involved in the tech ecosystem on a very intimate level, I still don’t know a lot of them, especially across Canada,” she continues, acknowledging that many of the tech-related events that she’s familiar with have been based in larger ecosystems such as those of Toronto and Vancouver.
“If you are working in tech on the east coast, or the prairies, or the territories, and there’s a woman who has made a difference in your life, or a role model that you think deserves to be recognized, we want to hear about it,” she says.
Nomination forms, whether submitted on one’s own or another’s behalf, should include a bio clearly explaining why the proposed nominee is an inspiring role model, she notes, and can be edited after submission, right up until the deadline of Oct. 31, 2017.
Inspiring Fifty initiatives have also run in the Netherlands, Europe, and South Africa.