As we celebrate Women's History Month in Canada, we speak to Kirsten Harrold, Copperleaf's Director of Client Solutions, Extensions & Delivery, about her career journey, her advice to women thinking of joining Copperleaf®, and why she created the Women In Tech group.
Can you share what your career journey has been at Copperleaf?
"I started at the company five years ago as a quality assurance (QA) analyst after immigrating to Canada from the UK. I progressed to Team Lead for the Customer Delivery QA team and am now the Director of Client Solutions, Extensions & Delivery. My team is responsible for creating product customizations to ensure our clients get the most value out of the Copperleaf Decision Analytics Solution."
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the tech industry?
"Because women are a minority in the tech industry, I've found we tend to be a tight and supportive group who have shared similar experiences. I also believe there are a lot of opportunities for roles that require softer skills."
You mentioned a lack of women in technology. Why do you think that's the case?
"There's the systemic issue of the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields in university, with computer science having one of the highest gender disparities of all subjects. Gender can also affect the way we're perceived and treated in the workplace. It can be difficult being a woman in a male-dominated field—especially when you're the only female in the room—and if stereotypical feminine traits are not valued, women may feel like they can't be themselves and therefore have a lower sense of belonging."
Being a woman in a male-dominated field can feel isolating. In 2017, I created the Women In Tech group as a safe space for women to support one another. It has become a great way to find both male and female champions who are passionate about closing the gender gap and advancing inclusion in the tech world.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles that a woman working in the technology sector faces?
"Seeking out allies and mentors can be challenging, but if you put in the effort, they can really help your career path in the industry."
With respect to your professional career, what have been your biggest career obstacles?
"For me personally, when I went through my first pregnancy 18 years ago, I was striving for a team lead position at my company back in the UK. I took only 3 months of maternity leave because I felt tremendous pressure to get back to work as soon as possible or risk being passed over for a promotion. I was also a single mother, so not being able to travel easily for work or go to our other office locations hurt my career progression.
With my second pregnancy, my experience was like night and day. I was able to take 18 weeks of maternity leave at Copperleaf and didn't feel pressure or guilt about returning early to prove my worth. I'm also proud that men in senior positions at the company are taking their full 18 weeks of paternity leave."
Why did you create the Women In Tech group?
"Being a woman in a male-dominated field can feel isolating. In 2017, I created the Women In Tech group as a safe space for women to support one another. It began as a casual lunch group in order to meet other women and be able to share our experiences and support each other. Since then, it has become a great way to find both male and female champions who are passionate about closing the gender gap and advancing inclusion in the tech world."
What would you say to female candidates who are considering applying for a job at Copperleaf?
"I would encourage them to apply and then gladly welcome them to the Women In Tech group. We're a great community with lots of support and experience to offer. I would also share that I've witnessed a lot of improvements spearheaded by the employee experience (EX) team, including extending paid parental leave, expanding extended health benefits, allowing for family care days, and implementing KPIs and gender analysis of promotions, career development, and pay equity."
What's next for the Women In Tech group?
"Now that the group is growing so quickly, we're working on formalizing a committee to help run and organize future events. We're working more closely with the EX team to ensure we have KPIs that align with EX's goals. I'm looking forward to getting new employees involved so that we can develop the next generation of women leaders."
Learn more about joining our team, we'd love to hear from you.
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