Editors’ Letter: It’s not easy being female and an entrepreneur. Or a scientist.

By Kara Collins and Karen Mazurkewich

It’s tough enough to raise money and launch a startup. But when a female entrepreneur scales her company, she immediately gets labelled: Female Founder. Girl boss. Mompreneur.

Invitations pile up for panels and speeches. The lineup forms for media requests.

Against this backdrop, is a gender-focused edition of our magazine an appropriate vehicle for promoting women in science and tech? Is all the attention a burden or blessing?

We believe female entrepreneurship has never been more critical. As women finally achieve momentum, it’s time to press down on the pedal, not ease up.

Hence the special edition you are reading now.

There’s no denying that women in business face unique obstacles. Those who make it through the door rarely get to occupy the C-suite. At a time when tech companies are struggling to find talent in many fields—there are only about 22,000 people in the world who can design artificial intelligence systems—it is self-defeating to limit access to the talent, energy and ideas of more than half the population.

As we brainstormed for this edition, we were conscious of how often women’s contributions—and genius—have gone unheralded throughout history. The Bank of Canada recently unveiled a new design for the $10 bill featuring entrepreneur and civil rights activist Viola Desmond, the first non-royal woman to appear on our currency. That it has taken so long to celebrate a woman’s achievements speaks volumes. We simply can’t afford to overlook female talent in the future, especially as technology is quickly changing the world as we know it.

We are reaching an inflection point where AI will fundamentally change our relationship with machines, converting them from tools into decision-makers. As the impact of these technologies expands ever further, women need to be at the design table thinking through the implications for all of society.

Here are the top three reasons why we think including more women in tech would result in a better world:

1. Responsible disruption.

Diverse teams—both in terms of gender and ethnicity—are more likely to look at their products from every possible angle, designing technologies that address real-world problems and work for everyone. For example, health apps that account for menstrual cycles and drug therapies tested on men and women. Less moving fast and breaking things; more fixing what’s broken.

2. Better business.

Not only do diverse teams function better, but the products they create are more reflective of a broader customer base. Who would say no to more customers?

3. Respectful dialogue.

Putting more women at the table means more open, wide-ranging discussion that encompasses many points of view. And maybe silences some Internet trolls along the way.

As Canadians, we are fond of saying that diversity is our strength. It’s time we made our tech sector even stronger.

MaRS CEO Yung Wu sees progress on gender diversity as vital to Canada’s ability to win in global tech markets. Although Toronto’s tech sector is slightly more diverse than other leading centres, more needs to be done to advance women into leadership roles.

“Women are making strides as entrepreneurs, executives, scientists, engineers and tech leaders of all kinds. But we need to do a better job of telling their stories, highlighting the role models and mentors who can inspire other talented women to strive for a career in tech.

“With this magazine, we are taking a step in that direction. I hope the many inspiring women
featured here will convince other talented women considering a career in tech that this is a viable path, where they can fulfil their potential and make a difference.”