Last night I attended a Women In Tech networking and panel session hosted by the Kamloops Innovation. Women were encouraged to join from all backgrounds, companies, and organizations to get together to celebrate the vibrant and growing tech and entrepreneurial community in Kamloops.

This was an awesome event and very well attended by a lot of incredible women– and men! One of my biggest pet peeves is that women in tech events are seen as a feminist – or female only – movement. But it is really more than that. It’s about lifting each other up and empowering one another to be their best selves. It’s about acknowledging that there is a gender gap in the technology industry. About having a real, honest discussion about values, stereotypes, and perceived work/life balance. It’s being aware that men and women have different kinds of needs, communication skills, and personality traits; and working together in harmony.

It was very inspirational to hear from a panel of talented women who are currently working in the tech industry, from both of our community and a soon to be satellite event in Africa. This panel was moderated by Stefanie Butland, who is totally amazing at managing an international community of scientists at ROpenSci, and featured distinguished panelists such as Elycia Buckley, (President of the Computer Science Club at Thompson Rivers University), Tammy Uyeda, (Founder and CEO of FitSpark), and Paris Gaudet, (Executive Director of Innovation Island).

Basically, it was a room full of incredible lady bosses – Uggggggggghhhhh… So cool! 

And you know what was just the absolute best? The overwhelming, wonderful feeling of “you-go-girl” attitude making a big room feel small and inclusive. I could walk up to an already existing conversation to introduce myself and be welcomed with a comment like, “Hope is awesome. She’s doing really great stuff at Joy Factory Films.” But it wasn’t just special treatment for me, oh no, because we are all amazing and making progress in the startup world on local, provincial, and even global levels. This uplifting atmosphere was refreshing to be a part of! Wow!

I’ve got to say, that statistically, women only own 5% of startups. For women in the tech industry under twenty five years of age, their earnings on average are 29% less than their male counterparts. About 74% of young girls express interest in STEM fields and computer science, however, only 25% of women obtain computing related careers. I could spew statistic after statistic to you, but I think you understand my point.

Overall, it was invigorating to hear new perspectives of other women working in the tech industry. From an executive director to company founder to an aspiring professional, the range of answers and ideas I heard were quite similar and empowering.As for me, well, I am the only girl on the team at Joy Factory, and I’m happy to say that I don’t feel out of place here. I can definitely admit that I baked a lot of cookies and banana bread when I first started in attempt to win my new co-workers over. Often I try very hard to carry more camera gear than I can handle. I am still learning about different types of gear and how they all work, but I don’t feel incompetent. My gender and sexuality have nothing do with how well I perform in my everyday duties, and I am a respected member of the team in my workplace.

I’m very grateful for this, though I know this is not always a global standard that is met for many women in tech and other industries alike. Its important to keep having conversations like this one hosted by Kamloops Innovation, yes, but my question to you is… At what point do we stop having a conversation about these gender gaps and do something about it?

As Sheryl Sandberg said (COO of Facebook), “The time is long overdue to encourage more women to dream the impossible dream.”

Photo Credits: Assetou Ctintou, Kamloops Innovation