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“Increasing women in tech is my biggest passion, and my aspiration as CIO is to see more women enter the field,” said Aviva’s CIO, Nicole Brouillard.  Insights like this inspired more than 200 students from across Toronto during the first annual TCS/Aviva Women in Technology Panel hosted in April.  Brouillard, along with the other panelists, is acutely aware of the declining trend of women in technology careers and works hard to inspire students to pursue their goals despite barriers that may be in their way.

Today, Canadian women hold over half of all new college degrees, but only ~25% of women are represented in Canada’s Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT) workforce. Although girls gain interest in STEM field by the age 11, they quickly lose interest by 15. One of the top-cited reason for girls’ waning interest in pursuing ICT careers is the glaring lack of female representation in these roles. In other words, girls do not have STEM role models.

TCS and Aviva decided to co-host the Women in Technology panel based on shared values for promoting women in the workplace. “[Our companies] give equal platform for a diverse community to showcase their talent and competencies to grow within an organization,” said Sindhu John, TCS’s Head of HR in Canada.

The panel, comprised of female executives from both TCS and Aviva, served as role models in the technology space while offering powerful advice to the aspiring young tech professionals. Panelists included Aviva’s IT services lead, Arlynne Fantauzzi, and Head of Architecture, DevOps & Engineering Practices, Glynda Gill. TCSers on the panel were Client Partner, Suman Pattar and Head of BFSI Cognitive Business Operations in Canada, Pooja Tandon. TDSB student moderators Crystal Chen and Ariana Zuniga gathered questions from their teachers and peers to guide the session’s narrative.

Two themes that emerged from the day’s conversation were the importance of forging your own path in   your career, and that there is ample room for every skillset in the world of technology. “I carved out my own success story,” said Pooja. Her advice to students hoping to make their own success story is that “you are the owner of your life. You have to define your purpose. Take charge and never be shy. My building blocks – believe in yourself, have a defined purpose, and invest in self-care.”

All of the panelists emphasized the importance of problem-solving and creativity in technology careers. Arlynne said, “Technology is very transferrable. Your ability to problem-solve, innovate, and be creative will come into play no matter where you are. If you, like me, have a creative spirit, technology is the place for you! Be brave, sign up for things you don’t know much about, and go for it!”

The session ended with the panelists encouraging the students to take risks and seize opportunities. Glynda left students with the advice, “Don’t be afraid to fail! Not everything is going to work and that’s okay. You never know where life is going to take you. If you fail to take step because you don’t think it’ll work out, you’re missing an opportunity!”

After the panel, students and teachers reflected about the importance of the advice given by the panelists. For that reason, TCS is hoping to continue hosting panels and providing mentorship opportunities girls hoping to pursue careers in STEM.

If you’re interested in being a role model to young women, reach out to Canada’s CSR Manager antoinette.ellis@tcs.com