08 Mar The contribution of women in tech
Croesus meets with Marie-Philippe Gill, aka Girl Knows Tech
Women in computer science and software engineering are underrepresented. Yet their contribution to IT teams is significant, according to Marie-Philippe Gill, Research Developer at Croesus.
“The participation of women adds a diversity of viewpoints that contributes to the success of projects. Women bring different opinions to the table and consider different aspects, which ultimately enriches the projects,” said the computer engineering candidate.
In Canada, only 18% of IT professionals are women, according to Statistics Canada. This underrepresentation is even more pronounced among engineers, where only 8% are women, according to the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec.
Marie-Philippe Gill is one of them. Her research work for Croesus Lab focuses on Natural Language Processing (NLP) via machine learning. At the same time, Gill is one of North America’s most prominent techinfluencers through her blog Girl Knows Tech and her social media presence.
This aspect of her work has earned her the distinction of being the first Canadian to win a Globant Award. She also finds time to be a speaker, an activist for women in engineering and an ambassador for École de technologie supérieure (ETS).
Croesus met with her to discuss the place of female software engineers.
Croesus (C): Why is there such a low percentage of women in software development?
Marie-Philippe Gill (M-P.G.): It’s hard to pinpoint an exact reason, but things are changing. There are now programs to attract more women in science and engineering, such as Engineers Canada’s 30 by 30 initiative. Its goal is to increase the proportion of newly qualified women engineers to 30% by 2030. ETS and other universities also have several programs and scholarships to encourage women to pursue careers in science and engineering.
One factor that may explain the lack of women in technology is the bad experiences women have sometimes had in historically male environments. I know young women who have experienced harassment during their internships. In some cases, this has turned them away from their career path.
Fortunately, I did not have that experience. But, I was still the only woman in my collegial program and felt isolated at times. I also remember receiving comments from colleagues who suggested that I had a better grade or a better internship just because I was a woman.
Although I’ve generally had good experiences throughout my career in software. My bad experiences may have subconsciously led me to be involved in the cause of women in engineering.
C: Tell us about the reasons for this involvement
M-P.G.: At CEGEP, I was the only woman in my program, in all grades. When I started my bachelor’s degree at ETS, there were only two or three women in a group of about 50 students. So I started to get involved in the ETS women engineers group, which promotes the integration of women in engineering.
It was also during this time that I started the Girl Knows Tech blog, in 2016. I really enjoy demystifying things for people. The blog is a good vehicle for this.
It’s a way for me to make technology accessible to everyone. I share my love for technology, and I tackle the fears people may have when deciding to study software engineering.
Besides being an ambassador for ETS, I am also involved in all sorts of events that promote women in the field, including the Montreal Women Techmakers conference.
I also participated in preparing an employer’s guide for the Ordre des Ingénieurs du Québec (OIQ) to raise awareness about the challenges faced by women engineers in the job market.
C: What excites you about the WealthTech world?
M-P.G.: The world of finance is relatively conservative, but that’s not necessarily the case with a software engineering career. I like the feeling that I am contributing to the evolution of technologies that help to develop a field that is prudent, sometimes even slow-moving.
C: What is the future of WealthTech?
M-P.G.: Sometimes when dealing with financial services, it’s hard to find the right information and talk to the right people. Using artificial intelligence to improve the client experience is one of the key ways forward for technology.
The solutions of the future will allow clients to be self-sufficient, in opening an account, for example. While at the same time providing them with easy access to a human advisor, when necessary, for specific advice.
C: What is your role at Croesus?
M-P.G.: As a research developer, my tasks are varied, and I work on different projects. I cover all stages of the process from technology analysis to prototype development prior to production.
My tasks range from writing a literature review on a new topic that might be interesting for our solution developments, to explaining the possibilities of a new technology to our clients, to designing prototypes.
For example, I am currently working on a prototype that uses artificial intelligence to help financial professionals be more efficient and effective. The prototype will then be presented to clients to give them an idea of the product and get their feedback.
C: Is Croesus a good working environment for women in software development?
M-P.G.: Croesus is my best work experience to date. In addition to the many benefits, such as unlimited vacation time and allowances for cell phones, Internet and sports activities, one of the highlights is the many opportunities to get together.
What is most important to me is not only am I given the flexibility to balance my work with my other personal activities. I’m also encouraged to do so. I can therefore go to conferences abroad or participate in activities during regular office hours, and there’s no problem.
Last year, for example, I was involved in the Force AVENIR gala, which promotes student involvement. Since I was nominated in 2018, and it changed my life, I wanted to pay it forward by being a jury member. Croesus allowed me to participate during working hours. And, it was also featured in our weekly virtual meeting attended by all Croesus employees.
Another aspect that attracted me to Croesus is the cultural, professional and gender diversity. There are about 30 nationalities represented and a multitude of professional profiles.
More than anywhere else, my work environment is open to new proposals, without discrimination as to who makes them. My ideas are taken into account, and when my schedule allows it, I have the chance to try them out.