women in tech

Expanding the role of Women in IT: The Pandemic has strengthened our need to advocate for equality

By Luc Villeneuve

Luc Villeneuve

My goal is to be a leading advocate for gender diversity and inclusion. I am guided by my daughter Stefania who is following in my footsteps in tech sales at Red Hat Canada.  I believe we need more men to step up and support their female leaders to sponsor their success, particularly after the pandemic, which has hit women very hard. I am on a mission to find the best diverse talent. I have replaced myself with women numerous times over my 30-year career.  I am helping to build a community to help drive change. I would be delighted to connect with other leaders in our community. Let’s get connected on LinkedIn and start a conversation.

Here are some examples of how I’ve worked with my community over the past few years. They illustrate my commitment to gender diversity and inclusion and how we could work together.

  • My most powerful podium has been the Globe and Mail, where I have pledged my support to the diversity and inclusion community and forged critical relationships. My most recent column was on International Women’s Day 2020 challenging men to step up and leverage their power. Earlier columns pushed the need for both genders to support gender diversity. I celebrated International Women’s Day 2018 by promoting Red Hat’s open source community as a model to engage leaders. My columns start conversations with the last one attracting 43 reader comments.
  • Benchmark Corp. launched an event in 2019 to bring together our future female leaders to discuss issues important to their growth. Our inaugural event was held in July 2019 to a standing-room only audience of emerging leaders (over 130 young women) at The Verity Women’s Club. Our keynote was Mpumi Nobiva, a phenomenal young woman who is mentored by Oprah.   Mpumi reduced the audience to tears and received a standing ovation after sharing her story of strength and resilience caring for her mother with AIDs in South Africa. Everyone at Benchmark was so proud of the feedback – 90 percent of attendees rated the event as excellent.  Charlie Atkinson of CompTIA’s Canadian Business Technology Community Advisory Board, shared his thoughts in a thank you letter to the team: “Over the decades that I have enjoyed being a part of this industry I have never attended an industry event with such an impactful and meaningful agenda that was fully delivered. Everything about the event was on point! From your opening address Luc, speaking to the purpose of hosting such a catalyzing event, to Nancy’s fact-filled presentation that underscores why doing what you have with Celebrating the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs is so very important. Here’s an overview of the event from Yasmin Ranade in What’s Your Tech.  Many of the speakers were interviewed by Marie Wiese for a podcast called Women Talk Tech including MpumiMeVanessa Vakharia and Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro
  • When I was the country leader at Red Hat Canada, I created a business strategy with my team to move towards gender parity. In 2014, women represented 5 percent of my Red Hat sales team and when I left Red Hat in 2018, women represented 30 percent. I believe this diverse team helped contribute to Red Hat becoming the 2018 North American Region of the Year.
  • In 2017, I launched an annual Women + Leadership evening to bring together Red Hat Canada’s network of women to discuss leadership issues to support D+I initiatives.  Five years later the network continues with Red Hat Canada’s Country Leader Claude Reeves at the helm and has 500+ members  The events are consistently sold out and boast leading speakers in D+I, including executives from Ryerson University (Dr. Imogen Coe), Microsoft (Kevin Peesker), HPE (John Dathan), Catalyst (Tanya Van Biesen), and University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management (Jennifer Riel, co-author with former Rotman dean Roger L. Martin of Creating Great Choices: a Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking). With this annual event, my goal was to bring together female leaders to build a community – create a place to connect, network, share best practices/ideas, and increase the pipeline of female talent.
  • I’ve invested time curating my LinkedIn network as my main channel to attract, engage, and deepen relationships with his community. My 10,000+ contacts have made my LinkedIn site a popular place for diversity and inclusion dialogue. Please send me an invite if we’re not connected. One post highlighting a community support award I received from Computer Dealer News attracted 35,000 views and over 122 comments.
  • One of my proudest moments was being chosen as a finalist for the Microsoft INSPIRE2018 Women in Technology Man of WIT Award which celebrates men who support diversity and inclusion. Thanks Corrine Sharpe for leading that.
  • I am continually asked to speak and participate on panels and in consultations. In March 2019 I was asked to collaborate with the top gender diversity experts in Canada at the University of Waterloo at a one-day strategy session on Best Practices with Kathleen Wynne, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Ontario lieutenant governor, and writer Shari Graydon.  In April of 2019, I participated in a Salesforce diversity and inclusion panel with Jodi Kovitz, founder of the international movement #MOVETHEDIAL. In June 2019, I moderated a panel at the CompTIA meetup on fostering gender diversity in the workplace with leaders in the industry including Charlie Atkinson, former president HPE, and Paula Hodgins, current president of HPE. I am regularly asked to speak with students at Ryerson.  Late last year I moderated a panel on trends in IT with other IT leaders at the inaugural Women in IT (WIT) Summit.
  • I contribute my talents and support my community as a board member at CompTIA, the national board of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), the C4 Canadian Channel Chiefs Council, Ryerson’s Information Technology Management Program Advisory Council (PAC), and Girls in STEM Executive Advisory Committee.

I have endless energy on this issue. I want my legacy to be equality in the workplace for my daughter Stefania and all women. I enjoy collaborating with other leaders and would really like to hear from you.