By Aaron Zaretsky
The technology sector is a heavily male-dominated industry but that does not stop women from making a strong impact in that sector. Below are FIVE ethnic women who continue to make an impact in the Canadian tech industry, while overcoming the daily barriers of being women and women of colour.
Saadia Muzaffar is a tech entrepreneur who is a part of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). After immigrating to Canada from Pakistan at 19, and learning that culturally, girls have no place in professions where your hands get dirty, Muzaffar was far from intimidated.
Muzaffar founded TechGirls Canada, a not-for-profit organization that conducts research and co-designs solutions that address barriers for diversity and equity for women of all abilities, race, religion, sex, and gender. TechGirls Canada is a hub for Canadian women in STEM and the inclusivity of all women opens the door for more women to work in the male-dominated science and technology sectors.
Muzaffar serves on the board of Women’s Shelters Canada, and is an ambassador for Girls E-Mentorship (GEM), a mentorship program for female youth facing socio-economic barriers. In 2017, she was featured in Canada 150 Women, a book about 150 of the most influential and groundbreaking women in Canada.
Janelle Hinds encourages women and other minorities to get into STEM related fields. She is a delegate for Daughters of the Vote, making recommendations on how the Canadian government can encourage women into STEM. Hinds also advocates for youth civic and community engagement, especially at risk youth. With that in mind, she founded Helping Hands, a youth civic engagement grassroots organization, which connects students with volunteer opportunities in the community. Currently, Hinds works at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health developing valuable tools to promote help seeking behaviour in at risk youth.
Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, Huda Idrees has a passion for creating websites. She began web designing at 12 years old in Saudi Arabia, at a time where web design was a new field. After immigrating to Canada, her design career has included leading product and design at multiple companies which includes Wealthsimple. Idrees is also the CEO and founder of Dot Health, an online service that securely gives people easier access to their personal health data. With Dot Health, a user receives real-time access to their health records on their phone or computer, which is controlled by the user and not a healthcare professional. Healthcare has been a dream for Idrees, and due to her passion and hard work she made her dream come true.
Aisha Addo is the founder of Power to Girls Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers Afro-diaspora girls mentors and role models. Addo uses her personal experiences and knowledge to create safe and engaging spaces for the girls she works with. She is also the founder of DriveHER, a ride-sharing service for women by women. According to DriveHER’s website, taxi driving is male-dominated in Canada with 85.1% being men. DriveHER is changing that by empowering women to drive.
Addo’s goal is to provide girls with guidance and resources that will empower and protect them, which she did not have as a girl. Power to Girls Foundation and DriveHER are steps towards that goal. Addo received the Young Black and Gifted Award for Community Service, named a Black Diversity Group Role Model and is among the 150 Black Women making history in Toronto.
Avery Francis started in the technology field as a recruiter. After falling in love with recruiting and tech, she focused on helping recruit the future of the tech industry. After gaining experience in recruiting and tech companies, she decided to become her own boss. Francis became the founder of Good Recruiter, a recruitment consulting agency for Toronto’s top startups. She is also the founder of Bridge School, a not-for-profit organization that offers marginalized people free software development and product design programs that can help them land a tech job. There are barriers preventing marginalized people from equal opportunities in the tech industry. Francis wants to eliminate those barriers and believes that there should be inclusion in every tech company.
Saadia Muzaffar, Janelle Hinds, Huda Idrees, Aisha Addo, and Avery Francis are examples of five ethnic women who have overcome barriers to make their mark in the male-dominated tech sector. With their impact, more women will have opportunities in the fields of science and technology.