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Advocating for Women in Tech


Episode Summary

In this inspiring episode of Behind the Growth, we celebrate Lisa Sutherland, Senior Director of Emerging Markets at Rogers Communication. More than a leader, Lisa is a dedicated advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, and shares invaluable insights with our host, Mudassar Malik.

The episode starts with Lisa recounting her professional journey at Rogers Communication, where she has been transforming business requirements into tech solutions, bringing diversity of thought, and enabling the right experience for internal and external customers.

The core of the conversation revolves around the importance of women in technology. Lisa delves into the distinct hurdles faced by women and reflects on the pioneering roles of women in tech, highlighting their early stronghold in computer programming and the inspiring tale of the women who made their mark at NASA in the 1960s. Furthermore, Lisa underscores the importance of diversity in tech development, citing instances such as Apple’s oversight of its health app and the design of crash test dummies.

As the episode draws to a close, Lisa emphasizes the crucial role of mentorship in career progression. She advocates for seeking mentors who offer a variety of perspectives and stresses the need for women to stand up for themselves. Lisa’s empowering message encourages young women to stay engaged, lean into challenges, and utilize their talents and creativity to effect positive change in the world. The episode concludes with Lisa extending an invitation for mentorship and envisioning a more inclusive future for the tech industry.

Featured Guest

  • Name: Lisa Sutherland
  • What she does: Senior Director of Emerging Markets
  • Company: Rogers Communications
  • Noteworthy: As a leader in technology and digital, Lisa’s journey spans a transformative era from the pre-internet age to today’s digital landscape. She is best known for her ability to build an environment of trust and transparency with a belief in limitless possibilities. A dedicated advocate for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, Lisa draws inspiration from the young women actively shaping the future of tech.

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Key Insights

Advocacy and Strengths in Technology Careers
Lisa Sutherland discusses the evolving mindset in technology careers, particularly among women. She notes that newer generations are increasingly learning to advocate for themselves, understanding and leaning into their strengths. This shift from waiting for external validation to actively seeking what they want marks a significant change. Lisa highlights this as a positive development, leading to more women taking up senior positions and driving progressive changes in the tech world.

Women’s Historical Role in Computer Programming
Lisa brings to light the lesser-known history of women in technology, especially during the post-World War II era and the 1950s. She points out that most computer programmers at that time were women, a fact often overlooked in the tech narrative. This historical perspective underscores women’s critical roles in shaping the technology we use today, challenging the conventional image of a computer programmer.

Underrepresentation and Diversity in Tech
Addressing the underrepresentation of women in tech, Lisa emphasizes the ongoing challenges and biases, especially for women of colour. She acknowledges the strides made in improving diversity but stresses that significant gaps and cultural biases still exist. Lisa points out the need for a cultural shift to address these issues, highlighting the impact of diversity on technology development and its broader implications for society.

Be present, lean in, and take on those challenges because you can make a difference with your beautiful talent, your creativity, your innovation.

Episode Highlights

The Role of Mentorship in Career Development

Lisa Sutherland speaks about the pivotal role of mentorship in her career. She emphasizes that mentors helped her recognize and believe in her abilities and strengths. This realization allowed her to rise confidently in her career. Lisa points out that it was about working hard and understanding and embracing her inherent capabilities. Her mentors were instrumental in this process, helping her to see her potential, which she may have overlooked otherwise. This highlights the transformative impact of mentorship on professional growth.

“The most important part of mentorship for me was I started to believe in the person they already knew I was. And it goes back to me, thinking about working hard and putting my head down, but they were the ones that pointed out to me – You’re already there. You already have the strengths and opportunities.”

The Importance of Inclusion in Technology Development

Lisa discusses the critical need for inclusive participation in technology, especially for women. She highlights how a lack of female involvement in tech can lead to solutions that do not adequately address the needs of all users. This is particularly important in fields like AI, where the diversity of inputs directly influences the quality of outcomes. Her discussion underscores the broader societal implications of excluding women from technology development, advocating for more active and inclusive participation.

“So when crashes happen, women are more likely to get hurt. So those are small examples of things where, if our girls are not involved and included, it can shape and dilute what our future can look like, especially with AI, and it’s only as good as the inputs it’s receiving as it moves forward.”

Addressing Gender Stereotypes in Tech

Lisa touches on the prevailing gender stereotypes in the technology sector. She challenges the typical image of a technologist and underscores the importance of having diverse perspectives in tech, especially from women. This diversity is vital for developing solutions catering to a broader audience and breaking down unconscious biases that shape our understanding of what a technologist looks like. She calls for a cultural shift that includes both men and women at the leadership level to enable this change.

“The gap is real, and the gap is real because of those unconscious biases that we all have about what a technologist looks like. The role models are few and far between, and I think there’s back to the culture. Men and women at the leadership level must enable the culture.”

Networking Opportunities for Women in Tech

In this segment, Lisa discusses the availability and accessibility of networking opportunities for women in tech. While acknowledging the presence of such opportunities, she stresses the need for more accessible and inclusive platforms. This approach would foster a more supportive environment for women in technology.

“There are opportunities, but it’s seeking out those opportunities that we must make more accessible to everybody. So many of the major corporations in Canada have inclusion and diversity groups where women can gather and have networking and mentorship opportunities.”

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