Technology industries in Canada and beyond have a reputation for being inhospitable to women. In November 2017, a Toronto initiative known as #movethedial released the results of a survey (conducted by PwC Canada and MaRS Discovery District), revealing a less than progressive reality. According to the survey, which assessed 900 Canadian tech firms, women make up only 5% of CEO positions and comprise just 13% of executive teams. 73% of Canadian tech companies do not have any women on their board of directors.
These are the types of harrowing statistics that inspired Samsung’s Breaking Barriers series which highlights the achievements of women who have disrupted the boys club of male-dominated industries. Focused on following the individual journeys of fearless women in the spaces of tech, gaming, and everything in between, Breaking Barriers seeks to remind the world exactly where a woman’s place is: at the forefront of groundbreaking innovation.
Melody Adhami, president and chief operating officer of Plastic Mobile, is part of this change. Adhami remembers a situation from her early days in the tech industry, in which a male colleague referred to her as a college student as she walked into a pitch meeting. She was the only woman present. “He was not prepared to take us seriously at all,” says Adhami. “The feeling of shattering that vision and stigma he had in his mind just a few hours before was such a winning feeling.” Since then, Adhami’s client roster has boasted the likes of Shoppers Drug Mart, Air Miles, Blackrock, Pizza Pizza, and Rogers Communications, and her accolades include Webby Awards, W3s, and Davies.
“We work in an extremely male dominated industry,” says Adhami. “The reality of it alone deters women from being inclined to pursue technology.” Adhami says that at a hacker camp recently hosted by Plastic, just two of the students, out of 16 in total, were girls. “I think lack of representation leads to this misconception that girls aren’t or shouldn’t be interested in the industry. It’s a tough mindset to break.”
There aren’t many of us, which can lead to the feeling that we weren’t “made” to be successful in the industry.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” says Adhami. “There aren’t many of us, which can lead to the feeling that we weren’t ‘made’ to be successful in the industry. That leads to a hesitation about getting involved or being pushed to get involved, which ultimately leads to a very slow progression away from this cycle. By default, men are viewed as superior.”
To navigate the challenge of gender inequality within the tech industry, Adhami says she has “a few strategies I like to live by when my business, and personal life, are concerned.” Among the most important:
- 1. The only thing you can equip yourself with is your own knowledge. Do your research. Be the smartest person in the room.
- 2. Confidence in yourself goes a very long way. (Again, it helps if you’ve done your research!)
- 3. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge what you aren’t good at.
- 4. Hire people who are smart and are amazing at their craft, and let them do their job. Trust and celebrate your team.
- 5. Give back to the community in some regard. Your passions shouldn’t end with your 9-to-5. Make a difference outside of the confines of your company.
- 6. Don’t give up. Be tenacious and don’t let that drive in you burn out due to a hard day — or week, or month. You are capable of whatever you set your mind to, so go out and show the world that.
You can watch Melody Adhami’s Breaking Barriers video in full below: