In the last decade, the number of women in STEM have increased greatly and that is to be celebrated. However, you would agree with me that we still have a long way to go-across Canada and even globally. Statistics from Ernest & Young indicate that women fill just 10 percent of C- suite positions in tech companies. The stats are even less promising when we consider the ratio of male tech founders to female tech founders. That said, I shudder to think what this might have looked like 10 years ago when Chic Geek opened its doors in 2013. At that time, technology-focused women employees in ICT were just about 2.3 percent; according to Ottawa-based, Women in Communications and Technology (WCT).
I have only known about Chic Geek for 5 months and yet the impact it has made in my life is remarkable. As this chapter comes to an end for Kylie Woods and her wonderful team, I want to give recognition and gratitude for the tremendous job that they have achieved over the past decade. I got to know about Chic Geek through its career pathing program which was extended to me through my involvement as a student in one of Momentum Calgary’s women-only tech programs. Career pathing brought with it, the undeniable and often hard-to-find gift of mentorship, as it connected women who were new to tech, to mentors who had built successful careers in the tech sector here in Calgary. I was connected with career guides who were happy to share their stories and offer guidance to me as a newcomer to Calgary. These mentors acknowledged the systemic huddles that come with being a woman in tech and offered helpful tips and advice that would not only serve for the present but would remain guiding torches as I chart my own course.
From its inception in 2013, Chic Geek’s mission was to cultivate a vibrant community that ignited belonging for women in technology. Over time, the organization’s mission evolved to encourage and support intermediate-level women in tech, fuelling their drive to forge ahead in this dynamic landscape. I spoke with a beneficiary of the career pathing program-Tetyana Halushko, who is a Ukrainian immigrant with a background in finance and book-keeping but decided to pivot her career into tech. Tetyana says “from the outset, Chic Geek impressed me with its well-structured and thoughtfully created mentorship program. The application process was straightforward and the team’s professionalism and attention to detail were evident. Once accepted into the program, I was matched with a mentor who possessed expertise and experience directly relevant to my interests in the IT industry. My mentor with her vast knowledge and real-world insights, guided me through the intricacies of the IT field, offering advice on career path choices, skill development and networking strategies”.
Roselyn Magadzire who migrated to Canada from New Zealand, with a background in Animal Science had this to say about Chic Geek “the networking events facilitated by Chic Geek were a powerful reminder of how incredible women are, and how much more the world benefits when women thrive. I made valuable connections at these events that exposed me to different perspectives and opened doors to potential collaborations in the future”. On of such events was the ConnectHer event that held in March 2023, in honor of International Women’s Day. I also attended this event and was inspired by the speakers and other attendees. Chic Geek created an environment where we could share, connect, laugh and be inspired.
In 10 years, Chic Geek has connected over 14,000 women in technology, introduced the Geeky Summit which was the pioneering conference for women in technology in Canada, mobilized 125 volunteers and hosted over 160 events. Its Career Pathing program made close to 1500 connections for 250 mentees and saw 59 percent of mentees advance their careers within 12 months of participation. Their jobsite also featured 391 jobs postings to connect more women to the jobs of their dreams.
Ten years later, Chic Geek is closing its door. The organization was heavily reliant on funding which hindered their long-term capacity to serve its community. It is sad to see an organization that had made so much impact in such a short time, draw the curtains. But we believe that Chic Geek has lit a fire that would continue to burn. By proving that women can advance their careers with the right support, Chic Geek has invariably answered the question “why do we not have more women in leadership positions in tech?”. The answer is-lack of support and mentorship. Through its operations, Chic Geek now challenges other organizations who care about diversity, equity, inclusion to collect the baton and continue the good work it started. In Kylie Woods’ words “just like a rainforest, where a fallen tree creates room for new growth, this end heralds new beginnings”. Here’s wishing Kylie and the team behind Chic geek the best as they move forward to other projects!
Mervis Elebe is a certified project manager with a background in Communication, and about 7 years’ experience in the IT industry. She is energetic and adept at working in a fast-paced environment and managing multi-cultural and highly functional teams. Mervis has great leadership qualities and often stands as a bridge between technical teams and business users. She is tech-savvy and believes in the power of technology to change the world. She loves to exercise, read memoirs and watch shows on Netflix in her spare time. You can connect with Mervis on LinkedIn here