In the April 2018 issue of WiFi HiFi Magazine, we highlighted excerpts from our interviews with several influential women in the tech industry in Canada. Every Friday, we'll be publishing our full Q&As with each of these women, as well as additional women in Canadian tech. Here, we chat with Allison Chow, Marketing Manager, Erikson Consumer.
Name: Allison Chow
Job Title: Marketing Manager, Erikson Consumer
Years in the Industry: 4.5
The Quote That Most Inspires You: "Work hard, dream big."
What drew you to a career in consumer electronics?
I've always been interested in technology. The constant evolution and innovation is exciting. How we connect and interact with others, as well as tech, has changed so much over the past 30 years. I'm looking forward to what lies ahead in the next 30.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
No, at least nothing I can directly attribute to my gender.
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
I'm a woman, Chinese, and Canadian (3rd generation), who grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. I can't pinpoint anything that stems solely from me being a woman. I've always been a minority; whether at school, amongst my friends, or the places I've worked. While this can be discouraging for some, it's never affected my goals or hindered me from making certain decisions because I felt the odds were against me. It's taught me how to be extremely adaptable, which has its advantages working in a fast-paced industry that's always changing.
Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs in order to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
More mentoring programs and shifting cultural norms/stereotypes. Connecting young females to women leaders in their field can have a significant impact on career development and encourage long-term commitment. Companies must also be mindful of its corporate environment and work towards shifting status quo practices and behaviour to promote inclusiveness. (The firing of James Damore last year - computer engineer at Google - comes to mind) There's nothing worse than walking through an organization you're looking to join and feeling like you don't belong. You're not going to attract top talent, regardless of gender, if they feel alienated the second they walk through your door.
If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?
Don't let misconceptions about you determine your outcome. Prove them wrong!
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you? If so, why? If not, why do you feel that is?
Gwynne Shotwell, President & COO of SpaceX. Gwynne has played an integral role in building SpaceX into a multi-billion dollar business (and currently the most sought-after company to work for. Sorry, Google). Second in command to Elon Musk, her rise to the top is an inspiring accomplishment, and the direct result of her determination to succeed and passion for building spacecraft. She defies the "space nerd" stereotype and is an avid believer in ‘hard work pays off,' a philosophy I've always lived by. Gwynne took risks in her career to get to where she is today, and is a notable example of a woman in tech who has broken down barriers to follow her dreams.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you'd like to dispel?
Women are too emotional, are not as technically skilled or knowledgeable, or can't handle high-stress/fast-paced work environments. These stereotypes are prevalent in other industries as well, and are broad generalizations that need to be dispelled. I tend to thrive under pressure, and love working in an industry that's constantly changing. It keeps work-life exciting, and you're always learning something new.
What's one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
"Name-blind" recruitment (stripping all identity information from resumes). Ottawa is currently undergoing a pilot project in the federal civil services industry, as they are experiencing a similar issue with a larger proportion of men in the workplace. I think there's some merit to this approach, and it should be considered by more companies to level the playing field in the hiring process. Not only am I a woman, I'm also Asian and it takes two words for someone to figure that out (my name). Unconscious bias is a reality, and job applicants should be scrutinized based on skills and technical qualification; not gender, ethnicity, or other inapplicable social constructs. By keeping applicants anonymous, we may start to see a shift in the industry. Maybe Kim and Kanye had the right idea after all, with North, Saint, and Chicago?
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
I've always been a glass half-full type of person.