Celebrating Women Leading the Way in Technology
In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8th, Gemstone Logistics is proud to acknowledge and celebrate the incredible contributions our female Gems have made to our culture and company, to the technology industry, and to our clients.
We Need More Women in Technology
Female representation in the technology sector remains fairly small at about 20%. However, more Canadian women than ever before graduated with STEM degrees in 2019, which suggests that change is alive within the industry. The Canadian Women’s Foundation notes that 86% of women become more confident in their ability to take on leadership when they see other female leaders. At Gemstone Logistics, we have built an extremely diverse team that includes high female representation at all levels, and especially in our leadership team.
Despite all the gains, we recognize that it has not been an easy year for women in the workforce. Due to the pandemic, Canada saw many women drop out of the workforce in 2020. We appreciate that many of our Gems had to transition quickly this year, adding “homeschooling teacher” to their daily job descriptions. Our goal was to support them as much as possible so that they could be successful in all areas, even during a busy and often stressful time.
Our female Gems tackled the challenge with their usual confidence and optimism. Their voices are important to us, so we caught up with five of our outstanding Gems to learn more about their experiences and achievements in technology and leadership.
Five of Our Female Gems
Danica Levesque – VP Operations
Karman Robins – Controller, Finance & HR
Kaitlin Stewart-White – Service Delivery Manager
Leah James – Development Team Lead
Manvir Dhaliwal – Quality Team Lead
What Advice Would You Give to a Woman Starting Out in Her Career?
Danica (photo left): To remain true to her values and authenticity; ask your questions and challenge the norm in a thoughtful manner. That she holds valuable space within each environment, and her ideas are just as valid as anyone else’s.
Kaitlin: Don’t be afraid to redefine words that can have a negative connotation [for] women. An example I hear from my own team is, “I don’t want to come across as bossy”. To them and any other women who have been saddled with this word, I say, well done! You are not “bossy”; you are taking leadership of the tasks that have been assigned to you. Be “bossy”, “emotional”, “opinionated” because what you actually are is: Strong, Passionate, and Intelligent.
Manvir: TAKE CHANCES. It is never too late or early, wise or stupid, fast or slow. Do not let anything or anyone stop you. No job is small enough that you should not do it, and no dream is big enough that you cannot fulfill it.
Leah: There has been a push for a number of years to get more women into the software development field, and I fully support this. All the female software developers I’ve worked with in my career have been equally as competent as their male counterparts. The message I would like to pass along to all the young women out there choosing a career path would be to consider a career in IT!
Why is Female Representation in Leadership Important?
Manvir (photo right): I come from a family where most of the women chose to be homemakers. I have learned management skills from them. It was commendable to see how they managed household members, expenses, chores, etc., so well and all while being compassionate, empathetic, and strict at the same time. This is something we need everywhere, including workplaces. It is high time that young kids get to witness ‘gender equality’ in the real world and not just in books, discussions, or articles.
Danica: It is important because as far as we have come, we are often still alone in the room. Greatness doesn’t come from the norm; it stems from intentional action and evolution.
Kaitlin (photo left): Diversity is so important to any leadership team. Our world is made up of millions of unique individuals with different points of view and experiences, and by limiting leadership positions to one gender or another deprives our society and our culture of all the strengths and benefits that each has to provide. A strong company like Gemstone recognizes that the strength of putting the right person into the right positions will result in balanced representation and growth for the organization as a whole. Where one person is more analytical, they need someone more emotional to balance them. And through that, harmony brings a culture where employees feel valued, safe, and want to work hard.
What Are the Challenges that Go Along with Being in a Leadership Position?
Danica: Continued efforts to maintain harmony within your schedule. There is additional complexity within the level of responsibilities, and they do not always wrap up in the course of a workday. The positives of providing mentorship and self-awareness of an individual’s potential far outweigh any of this, though.
What Are the Achievements You Are Most Proud Of?
Danica: I am most proud of the culture at Gemstone and my part in creating it. My journey with Gemstone began eight years ago as an Office Admin, and I feel accomplished reaching my current role as VP of Operations. Empowerment is an integral piece of our culture, and this, paired with my initiative, enabled me to seize opportunities for growth. My leadership role allows me to continue to celebrate this evolution and encourage the potential for growth within all our Gems as they navigate their individual journeys.
Karman (photo right): When I look back over my career, a lot has changed since I graduated from Finance in 1997. The economy was not in a good place, and jobs were scarce. I had dreams of working in investments and commodities, taking an administrative position in the agriculture industry with the promise to work my way into my dream role. The agriculture industry was still very much an “old boys club” at that time, and I learned quickly that advancement would be very different from what I had envisioned. Hard as it is for me to believe it now, fetching the boss coffee was a thing then, as was sexual harassment, body shaming, and gender inequality.
The company I was with merged several times to survive, and I found myself in the early 2000s re-evaluating my career choices and deciding to return to school in pursuit of an accounting designation. With two young daughters at home, I worked full time and took night classes for almost a decade, believing it would be worth the time away from my girls to show them what hard work and dedication can accomplish, and it was worth it!
Fast forward to now, I work for a progressive company that believes in people and lives its values every day, I have the opportunity to work with a diverse array of people who support each other. My daughters have grown up believing that they can do and be anything they put their minds to regardless of gender, and my son only knows a world where men and women are equals.
Change is scary, and the path for me was a long one. I believed in myself, with the support of my husband and children, and built the life I/we dreamed of.
Why is International Women’s Day Important to You?
Leah (photo left): Women have come so far in the workplace, and International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate that progress. To me, a big step towards gender equality means offering flexibility to working parents, both men and women, without sacrificing career opportunities. I am so grateful that I work for a company like Gemstone that is willing to offer leadership roles to part-time employees.
Manvir: Because it is special to celebrate a woman for being just a woman. It signifies that a woman can be more than just being a mother, daughter, wife, sister etc.
Danica: I feel as though women offer a balance to the typical boardroom banter. Not only is this important to females, but to all involved. The collaboration and ingenuity found from a collection of viewpoints are where the magic lies and where greatness is created. This is a day to take pause and celebrate the positive impacts women bring to the workplace, and I am proud to be one of them.
Happy International Women’s Day
At Gemstone, we are incredibly proud of all the women who work on our team, both in leadership roles and at all levels of the company. Their skills, expertise, and ideas are an essential part of our culture and success.
Thank you to Danica, Karman, Leah, Manvir, and Kaitlin for sharing your thoughts and advice. We are excited to see what the future brings for each of you, and for all of our Gems!