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International Women’s Day 2020: Diff Chats With Women in Ecommerce Image
Diff Blog
15
min

International Women’s Day 2020: Diff Chats With Women in Ecommerce

Every year on March 8, International Women’s Day is globally celebrated. It’s a day to acknowledge the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, while also marking a call to action to address current barriers. 

International Women's Day is particularly important to think about in the context of technology and ecommerce. Innovative technology has grown ecommerce into a global retail sector worth billions. And the innovative technology driving this ecommerce has historically been a male-dominated field. 

As of 2019, 1 in 4 leadership roles at large tech companies are held by women, and women across the tech field are outnumbered by men 3 to 1. While these statistics show positive change when compared to previous decades, there’s obvious room for improvement. For example, women in technology are still largely underrepresented in leadership roles, and continue to face barriers for advancement and gender parity.

Gender parity looks at relative equality in terms of numbers and/or proportions of women and men, as a way to demonstrate each gender’s representation in every dimension of life, including work. 

Shoptalk’s speakers in 2020 will be 100% women

Every year, the entire retail ecosystem gathers at Shoptalk to explore the latest trends, technologies, and business models in ecommerce. 

In 2019, Shoptalk announced that all speakers, including keynotes, at the 2020 retail event would be women. They explained, 

“As we enter our fifth year of Shoptalk, we’ve seen women founding companies, driving startups forward and rising through the ranks at brands, retailers and technology companies. Yet there are still far too few women at the most senior levels in our industry. This problem is by no means unique to retail--there are now more college-educated women than men in the workforce, yet the percentage of S&P 500 companies led by women still remains just 5%, a percentage that is simply unacceptable and untenable.”

This is what premised Shoptalk’s decision to feature women only speakers in 2020, and they’ve further pledged to feature 50/50 male and female speakers at each event, as of 2021. This decision demonstrates Shoptalk’s acknowledgement that women in ecommerce and technology are underrepresented. It also shows their willingness to take tangible actions that have the potential to propel change. 

 

How is Diff doing? 

At Diff, we believe that the key to better ecommerce is our difference, and what makes us different is our commitment to our values. Integrity, communication, trust, and accountability guide every aspect of Diff Agency, and with this in mind we want to be transparent about how Diff is doing when it comes to gender parity. In 2019: 

  • 48% of Diff’s employees were women. 
  • 37% of Diff’s developers were women. 
  • 27% of Diff’s leadership were women. 

This year, Diff has been recognized on the 2020 list of Best Workplaces™ for InclusionThis means that 90% of Diff’s employees agree they are treated fairly, regardless of personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation. We’re proud to share that our Differs feel included, and will continue to work towards gender parity across all of Diff’s teams in 2020. 

Let's meet some of Diff’s women

This International Women’s Day, we’re spotlighting three women from three different teams at Diff for insight into their experiences working as women in tech. 

Melissa Pegus, Head of Revenue - Two years at Diff. 

1. How have you seen the landscape shift for women in tech throughout your career so far?

The landscape for women in technology is changing for the better and it’s been a long and hard won battle led by women and their allies. Companies are discovering that promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace is more than just good for optics, the business case is overwhelming. The financial impact of establishing a truly diverse workforce, at all organizational levels, grows more compelling each year- as proven by multiple studies. I am heartened by the progress we’ve made thus far and excited about what lies ahead.

2. What advice would you give to young women who want to pursue careers in male-dominated fields? 

If you deserve a seat at the table, demand that seat.

3. What advice would you give women struggling in a male dominated industry?

I think that most companies are being introspective and asking themselves if their culture, policies, and procedures are in line with fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace. One would hope that this is a journey all companies are on, but even now there is still the possibility of finding yourself in a workplace that is not so inclined to progress. My advice to women who find themselves struggling is to remember that you have the power to choose the rooms you appear in. If you do not feel included and supported, seek out other opportunities and don’t look back.

 4. Looking back on your first day working in a career job, ever - What advice would you give yourself?

Don’t focus so much on the destination that you forget to enjoy the journey.

Melissa Pegus, Head of Revenue at Diff Agency.

 

5. Best decision you’ve made in your career / worst decision?

The best decision I’ve made in my career has been an ongoing one. I have consistently taken pauses at critical moments in my career to think about what I want my days to look and feel like. I think this has guided me in the right direction - it’s resulted in a positive career trajectory in which I feel both successful and happy. 

The worst decisions I’ve made in my career have all been related to ignoring my instincts. There have been times that I’ve ignored my gut feeling about something, and whenever I’ve done this, my gut feeling has turned out to be right. So, tap into those instincts rather than ignore them. 

6. Are there any women in the field that you look up to, aspire to, or have mentored you that you want to shout out? Why have they inspired you? 

I feel so lucky to be surrounded in my personal circles by many women who are blazing trails and accomplishing amazing things. Lucy Xu, the founder of The Port, Advisory Firm and Investment Fund, and Anna Anisin, Founder of Formulated By, a company focused on building community and conversations around Data Science, Machine Learning, and AI, are two absolute powerhouses who come to mind. These women continue to inspire and uplift me. 

7. How do you think we can encourage and nurture employment among women in tech?

I wish there was an easy answer but this really is a systemic issue so it’s quite complicated. However, a good starting point is to include gender parity - and diversity in general - as a goal in HR processes. By actively seeking to hire inclusively, we can normalize diversity in tech, and other male-dominated fields.

8. What do you think the next steps are for the tech industry to work towards inclusive employment? What changes would you like to see in the future?

I’d like to see less women dropping out of the workforce as they decide to start families. All industries, not just tech, need to contend with the issue of how we recruit and retain women through more inclusive family-friendly policies. 

Grace Scharf, Front End Developer - Two years at Diff. 

1. International Women’s Day celebrates the scientific, political, economic and social achievements of women. In your experience as a woman working in tech, what is its significance?

I think taking the time to recognize the achievements of women in fields traditionally dominated by men is a reminder that there is still a disparity of representation. If there weren’t a problem, we wouldn’t need to spend time talking about it. I remember being 11-12 years old and looking at the canons of various disciplines, seeing that it was all men, and internalizing that these were fields that men were good at, clearly, because there were no women. 

Taking the time to acknowledge those who are often overlooked for recognition reminds us that the disparity exists because of a system and not because certain genders of people are intrinsically better than others in a given field.

2. How can women better enable each other instead of compete? What needs to change in your opinion?

I really like the idea of Shine Theory, coined by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend. The idea is that, “I don’t shine if you don’t shine”.  We are the company we keep, so the best way to advance ourselves and our career is to invest in those around us. I think women can better enable each other by putting shine theory into practise. 

For further change, I’d like to see men lean into this theory as well. If the men in power only invite one woman to the table as their representative of diversity, then they are encouraging competition.

 

Grace Scharf, Front-End Developer at Diff Agency.

3. Are there any women in the field that you look up to, aspire to, or have mentored you that you want to shout out?

Yes! I look up to my friend Hanna, who works in A.I. She did a coding bootcamp a few years ago, and posted about her experience on Facebook. I was looking for a career shift, and reached out to her with 1000 questions. She inspired me to take the same bootcamp, which led me to the career I have now at Diff. I don’t know if I would be a developer right now if it hadn’t been for her example and mentorship. 

4. What barriers (if any) have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

I think I’ve been really lucky. I went into the coding bootcamp at 26 years old, with a strong sense of feminism and great support from friends. Because of this, I was able to mentally cope with unintentionally sexist moments, like when someone in my bootcamp asked if I was my team’s “cheerleader.” 

5. Have you felt supported as a woman working in tech at Diff? Do you feel that diff invests in building women’s careers?

Personally, I feel super supported at Diff. Just 1.5 years into my career I received a promotion from Junior to Intermediate developer that I hadn’t expected at all, let alone asked for. I appreciate that my team leader recognized and valued my work, and rewarded me for it. 

I recently finished building out a feature using Vue.js for the first time, and even though it probably took me longer than if I had built it similarly to how we had built it for other clients, I really appreciate the opportunity to improve my skills and thus increase my value as a developer. By promoting women within the company and giving us opportunities to expand our skill sets, Diff is definitely helping to build women’s careers. 

6. What do you think is a challenge women who are starting tech careers face now?

I think it’s hard to push past the idea that tech isn’t for ‘us’. For example, I definitely had internalized that I wasn’t a ‘math person’, but to be honest, in front end, there isn’t a ton of math! I genuinely think that if you are someone who enjoys problem solving, logic, and dopamine hits, you will like coding. It really isn’t that hard, it just takes the time to learn.

7. What are you most looking forward to in your career, in 2020?

My team has a new project coming up that I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about yet, but it’s pretty huge, and we’re implementing a bunch of new technologies in it. I’m really excited to contribute to this project, because it will likely play a huge role in shifting the way we develop at Diff!  

Vivian Doan, User Experience Designer - 3 years at Diff.

1. International Women’s Day celebrates the scientific, political, economic and social achievements of women. In your experience as a woman working in tech, what is its significance?

International Women’s Day always serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come, not just as women in tech but in all parts of society. I find this super motivating - it inspires me to aim higher and do greater things for myself personally, and for my career.

2. How can women better enable each other instead of compete? What needs to change in your opinion?

I think that women can better enable each other by actively practicing empathy and compassion. We all know that it can be difficult navigating the tech field as women, and so it makes zero sense to me to compete. Rather than compete, I think we should lift each other up because we can accomplish much more as a team versus as silos. 

3. Are there any women in the field that you look up to, aspire to, or have mentored you that you want to shout out? 

While studying Interaction, Design and Development at George Brown, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Nastaran Dadashi - she’s a professor in human factors and design. I really aspire to all that she’s accomplished, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her. She helped me to grow positively not just as a professional, but as a woman. And although she’s not in the field, I will always look up to my Mom. 

4. What barriers (if any) have you faced, as a woman, in becoming successful in your field? How did you overcome them?

User experience design is a tech-adjacent field. While my work doesn’t directly require tech skills, I do need to have knowledge and understanding of tech processes to do my job. Luckily, I had a pretty balanced experience of studying UX, I’d say my classes were 50% men and 50% women. And since working in UX it's been the same, Diff’s UX team is very balanced. I’m fortunate to have had this experience and I really believe that the tech industry is beginning to follow suit. 

 

Vivian Doan, User Experience Designer at Diff Agency.

5. Have you felt supported as a woman working in tech at Diff?  

Definitely. In my almost three years at Diff, I feel that I’ve been encouraged to contribute meaningfully to the UX team. Because I am trusted with expanding responsibilities, my skills over the last three years have continued to improve and grow. I think that diff puts a lot of effort into making sure that my voice and opinion matters, and that I have a place at the table. 

6. What do you think is a challenge women who are getting into tech / starting tech careers face now? 

I think that because women are socialized to be passive, it can be really challenging to assert ourselves in male-dominated spaces like the tech industry. I’ve found that this makes it difficult for me to feel legitimate and confident in my career. I know that once I realized this myself, it was much easier for me to actively address it. And that’s what I’d recommend to women just starting out. By knowing the barriers you face, you can better prepare to deal with them. 

7. What are you most looking forward to in your career, in 2020?

I’m looking forward to improving my skills even more this year by taking on new challenges. 

Women working in technology - resources for you:

This International Women’s Day, we’ve put together a list of four organizations that offer resources, opportunities, and education to women who work in tech, or women who aspire to work in tech:

CANADA LEARNING CODE (Ladies Learning Code) 

“We believe that digital skills are tools of empowerment. We envision a prosperous Canada in which all people have the knowledge and confidence to harness the power of technology to achieve economic and personal fulfillment. We are champions for coding education in Canada, driving results through program design and delivery, strategic industry and public partnerships, research and advocacy.”

TECHGIRLS CANADA

“We are a not-for-profit organization committed to conducting research and co-designing solutions that address barriers for diversity and equity in science and technology sectors by championing women of all abilities, women of colour, LGBTTQ+, immigrant, refugee, and Indigenous women.”

HACKING FOR HUMANITY

“Hacking for Humanity is a 2-day code-a-thon where developers, designers, scientists, students, entrepreneurs, educators and mentors work together to build apps that solve social problems. Because Girls in Tech was founded on inclusivity and equality, both men and women are welcome to participate and collaborate! As a result, when communities work together, they don’t just do good —they become a force for global change.”

GIRLS IN TECH

“Girls in Tech is a global non-profit that works to put an end to gender inequality in high-tech industries and startups. We do that by educating and empowering women who are passionate about technology. As a result, we offer everything from coding courses to bootcamps to hackathons and startup competitions no matter age or profession. It is Girls in Tech’s mission to support women with the access and community they need to succeed in tech.”

Want to read more from the Diff blog? Check out these recent articles:

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Written by Erin Hynes, Diff's Marketing Coordinator. 

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