How uOttawa Women in Innovation is inspiring conversation around equity, diversity and inclusion

Posted on Monday, June 28, 2021

Author: Sophia Leong and Diana Wittman, Co-chairs of uOttawa Women in Innovation

Women in Innovation Advisory committee - June 2021

Culture and learned behaviour take time to shed before new ideas and action take hold to nurture a working environment where everyone has a seat and a voice at the table.  With uOttawa Women in Innovation, this is our mission. The goal is to create a safe space to showcase and discuss bold ideas that advance equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in the communities we serve. 

Consider this, according to a global study conducted by the IBM institute for Business Value, 70% of global businesses do not consider gender equity a top priority. In addition, the representation of women in senior management roles has shrunk by 7% since the start of COVID-19. This is despite growing evidence of the likelihood for higher revenue growth when businesses prioritized gender equity.

uOttawa Women in Innovation is proud to welcome their new Co-Chairs: Sophia Leong, Executive Advisor Development & International Relations, and Diana Wittmann, Executive Assistant to the Chief Information Officer. They recently kicked-off monthly Advisory Committee Meetings with their June session.

“The need for a higher level of women participation in our workforce, in particular in senior roles, is a perennial issue despite many ‘solutions’ trying to correct the course,” says Sophia Leong, Co-chair of the group. “The Digitalization Era further expanded the gaps.  We are approaching it with an ‘all hands- on deck” mindset. We are building alliances with all like-minded stakeholders to close the gap and to showcase phenomenal women doing incredible work with students.”


A new allyship program

“It was an eye-opening workshop that definitely helps raise your awareness of the issues in our societies and triggers immediate behaviour changes,” explained Rajesh Dawar, Application Integration Architect. In collaboration with the Government of Canada and IBM, uOttawa Women in Innovation created an allyship training pilot program, of which four uOttawa team members participated. The next step will be the creation of a formal curriculum open to a much larger audience.

  • “There are no right or wrong ways to do the right things. We need to learn how to foster a safe environment knowing that gender systems exist and how ‘privilege and power’ could impact the workplace. Mistakes are encouraged because that is how all of us could discuss openly and safely learn.” Martin Dubois.

Creating connections

Representatives presented at the CANHEIT conference in June 2021 to a national group of higher education IT professionals. 60 people signed up to hear about our diversity and inclusion journey.

uOttawa Women in Innovation is sharing their mission through an exciting roster of events and activities this year: 

  • Better and Stronger Together : Hosted by Martin Bernier, uOttawa CIO and Luc Villeneuve, President of Benchmark, these events encourage men and women to get involved and learn more about diversity and inclusion . The next scheduled session event is taking place September 22.
  • Technology @ Work: Showcases women in academia leading impactful projects with students.
  • Innovation Driving Impact: A meet-up to highlight the amazing leadership of women in academia working with industry  
  • Community of Practice: A collection of activities that promote concrete change and networking, such as “HERoes”, a Mindbridge partnership that provides opportunities for young women in artificial intelligence

If you are interested to learn more or get involved, reach out to or or join the uOttawa Women in Innovation LinkedIn Group.

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