When Vendasta got its start in 2008, our founders resolved that the company would be an inclusive, safe, and an empowering work environment. As a software company, it houses a lot of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs.
“Science is everywhere in the world around us. Technology is continuously expanding into every aspect of our lives. Engineering is the basic designs of roads and bridges, but also tackles the challenges of changing global weather and environmentally-friendly changes to our home. Mathematics is in every occupation and every activity we do in our lives.”
- National Science Foundation
The technology industry is growing rapidly and changing the future as we know it; women are an essential part of that growth.
There were multiple contributing factors to the decline in women in the tech industry.
First, accomplished women seemed to find themselves as the forgotten part in STEM history. The first person to write the first bit of computer code was a woman: Ada Lovelace. The computer industry was once dominated by women like her, a phenomenon brought on by men’s absence during the Second World War. Programming was seen as tedious women’s work, this ideology stretched into the 20th century. Right until men found out how wicked-cool it was.
In the 1970s, computer technology started growing, and out of that economic and technological boom came Steve Jobs and Bill Gates—you’ve heard of them, right?
They’re two of the most brilliant minds in technology, who made it possible to have a world’s worth of knowledge in your back pocket. Those two brilliant minds just happened to be men. The media quickly turned them into heroes, and masculinity became inextricably linked to yet another form of technological advancement.
Fathers were more likely to gift a computer to their son, rather than their daughter. Originally, computers were marketed to men, and women were unfortunately used as an object to market the computers. This Apple ad from 1985 is equal parts shocking and hilarious, but more importantly, very real. It illustrates Apple’s early product marketing influenced many generations.
Initiatives outside our walls
Vendasta is doing its part to help reach women in the STEM field. We use the phrase “Bridge the Gap” a ton at Vendasta. It’s a term that we use frequently because whether we are bridging two different divisions together to achieve project success or working toward equality in the workplace.
Vendasta sees the importance of not only talking about and promoting equality in the workplace, but also partaking in programs and events focusing on just that.
In October 2018, Vendasta sponsored Women in Tech World (WiTWorld), which is an organization that dedicates its time to creating community-driven plans and educational programming to support and advance women in tech. WiTWorld is a 100% volunteer-run nonprofit with members from leading tech companies like Microsoft, award-winning startup advisory firms like Volition Advisors, and STEM-related backgrounds like engineering and fintech.
We had all of these proud Vendastians at WiTWorld to share their wisdom.
Vendasta was excited to take part in the Young Women in Business (YWIB) Speed Networking event. Vendastians shared their knowledge, spoke on all the different opportunities at the company, gave career advice, and acted as mentors to young women.
The YWIB has a clear message: Provide young women with events, programs, and an engaged network of ambitious women to help them become successful in their careers, take on new challenges, and develop skills.
“Connections can be a powerful form of currency. You have so much to learn from new people and networking is a way you can do that. As a woman in the workforce, it is so valuable to have role models and other women to learn from. Your network is like an extended professional support system to you who help you find your path, celebrate your successes and help to build your confidence.”
For the Kids
The company also partners with St. Mark Elementary School in Vendasta’s home city of Saskatoon to bring them Coding for Kids, an after school program that runs twice a year for six weeks. Vendasta sends two developers, and makes sure diversity is well represented, knowing the impact it has. Kids are able to relate to and invision themselves as a developer. Vendasta supplies the snacks and the fun. The little ones get to learn how to code using Scratch and develop fun, simple video games (think of the classics, like pong and snake that we all loved when we were growing up). Schools like St. Mark also receive donations of new and innovative technology from companies like Microsoft.
Initiatives Inside our Walls
Our stellar People Operations team (People Ops)—what other organizations call Human Resources—are making small adjustments that have huge impact.
We ensure our presence is always diverse—at career fairs from high schools to universities, and presentations at elementary schools. People Ops recently attended the Computer Science Internship Program career fair (CSPIP). Being a young person entering any field can be intimidating. Having a diverse group of faces that are friendly and approachable make a world of difference.
Branching Out is a group of Vendastians focusing on inclusion and career advancement in the workplace. It’s anchored by a meeting once a month, where women and men can discuss barriers they might face in the workplace. The real essence of the group is a place where peers can make their voice heard, communicate, and empower each other.
“Branching Out was started as a chance for us to connect, share, and collaborate outside of work-hours. The main goal was to foster a productive, inclusive environment for women interested in technology and business. We want Vendasta to be seen as a company at the forefront of supporting equality in the workplace.”
Vendastian Women in STEM roles
There’s good work happening, but there’s more to do. Overall, STEM jobs are still ‘non-traditional roles’ for women. A non-traditional role is any occupation with fewer than 25% of a specific gender in those jobs.
- Computer Programmer
“I decided on what interested me and I did it. You spend almost as much time at work as you do in your time off so it might as well be something you are interested in. Working in STEM is awesome because there are so many cool things you can do.
As a software developer I've gotten to work on satellite radio software that gets music into your vehicle; calculate the most efficient way to get a logging shipment from one side of the country to the other and; help make the software of an autonomous sailboat sail the ocean by itself.”
The Numbers don’t Lie
Vendasta is striving for workplace equality—and we have the numbers to prove it.
Jean Parchewsky, VP of People Operations, is on the SaskTech Board. SaskTech is a representative voice for the technology sector in Saskatchewan. It involves multiple tech organizations that lobby the provincial government to ensure they receive support in terms of post secondary training, employees, and grants. Jean has worked on spreading awareness at the K-12 grade levels, ensuring students know there is equal opportunity for both boys and girls to have a career in technology. Jean is a champion for workplace equality.
“Our initiatives have been focused on increasing the awareness for young women on the possibilities and careers in STEM. We have been sending mentors into schools, doing presentations at different events and working with students. At Vendasta we are excited to be able to do our part by increasing the opportunities for the next generation of women in STEM.”
Representation matters and Vendasta wants to lead by example. There are still gaps, but we are on a path forward to bridge them. Sure, Vendasta wants to build up great programmers who can then work here, but it’s not lost on us that there’s impact beyond our walls. Women and girls who encounter positive mentors in STEM, take part in programs where they feel welcome, and who see examples of careers they can do will bring us closer to equality in these fields.