Shifting the status quo

Shifting the status quo

Jodi Kovitz, founder of #MovetheDial, explains why advocating for female leadership in all industries is crucial right now

JODI KOVITZ is a big name in the Canadian technology space. Having run a not-for-profit organization, Peerscale (formerly AceTech Ontario), Kovitz founded #MovetheDial in January 2017 with the mission of increasing the participation and leadership of all women in technology.

“#MovetheDial is a global movement that aims to advance women in the tech space,” Kovitz says. “We focus on making large, substantive systems change in a metric-driven way through collaboration and a posi-tive solutions focus. We also want to inspire young girls and women to be all they can see so we can help increase the number of women in the pipeline to join the tech industry and lead it into the future.”

Diversity in the tech sector has long been an issue of contention for leaders. A study undertaken by #MovetheDial in conjunc-tion with PwC Canada and the MaRS Discovery District found that just 5% of CEO roles in Canada were held by women. And the state is even sorrier for tech firms – more than half of the country’s digital organizations have no female executives.

“It’s so incredibly important to empower females into executive positions,” Kovitz says. “I think 2018 has been a tremendous year for the empowerment of ‘the woman’ worldwide. It’s come about through amazing movements launched by individuals – people are finally starting to understand the power of advancing all leaders. There are so many different perspectives and results that we can achieve when women are seated at the leadership table.

“In the new economy, from my perspective, we frankly cannot afford to leave any part of the population out,” Kovitz adds. “When you don’t have women at the design table or at the leadership table, making choices around the solutions we need for the future, those solutions will not reflect the needs of the population at large. For me, that’s the giant impetus as to why we need empower female leaders now – and do it faster than ever before.”

Since launching, #MovetheDial has garnered a community of more than 5,000 and has had a great deal of impact. For example, organizations like the accelerator hub the C100 have seen a 400% increase in female founder nominations in Toronto for its programs (in that case, the increase was 400%).

For Kovitz, promoting inclusivity has become a personal as well as professional calling. She’s no stranger to discrimination in her own career – yet despite this, she’s deter-mined to take a positive stance when pushing for inclusivity.

“Certainly, I’ve had moments in my career where I’ve had to find ways to demonstrate my potential and my knowledge,” she says. “I’ve had moments where I’ve wondered if it’s more difficult for me because of my gender and my age. I really try to focus on the opportunities and the solutions rather than the prejudices and bias. I believe the more we can keep our mindset on what we can do to fix the problem instead of focusing wholly on our own challenges, the better we will be and the faster we will move the dial.”

As a woman paving the way for change, Kovitz has spent time perfecting her personal leadership style, which relies on authenticity, open dialogue and fostering a wholly inclusive demographic.

“Authentic conversations are the absolute best way to advance the full talent pool to build the solutions we need for the future is in a very positive way,” she says. “If we see the glass as half full and inspire people to go out of their way to take individual and collective action, there’s nothing stopping us from facilitating major change. That reflects in a lot of the messaging around the work we do: being positive, being action-focused and walking the walk. A small example of this would simply be taking someone to a meeting to let them watch and learn in person or connecting someone to an opportunity with a female founder of a tech company. It’s just as much about the little steps as it is the big ones – and I think my leadership style is to show people what’s possible.”

So, from a female leadership perspective, what would Kovitz like to see from the CEOs of the future? She believes leaders can’t just pay lip service to new initiatives – there needs to be more substance behind diversity agendas.

“Employees need to feel like they can belong at the design and leadership tables, which in turn will allow them to come to work as their authentic selves,” she says. “It’s one thing to bring diversity to the table; it’s another thing entirely to make those diverse people feel like they belong there. When they do feel like they do have a true seat, they can make super meaningful contributions as their authentic selves. We really need to not only go out of our way to get people to the design table – we also have to go out of way to make those people feel ownership and pride in their place.”