Cat Coode on ransomware, teens, privacy settings and movies

Cat CoodeCat Coode has been giving advice on protecting your identity here at Year of Code Waterloo Region, but also on the YummyMummyClub site and her own website Binary Tattoo (with a great app list). Are people starting to understand how to protect themselves online? What new threats are out there? And what’s her favourite identity theft movie?! These questions and more she kindly answered for us here.

How do you keep on top of all the security issues to share with your readers and clients?

A lot of reading and a lot of Google Alerts. There are a handful of reliable sources when a security issue breaks and then I find the further down the chain you go, the less accurate the information. For instance, recently there was a breach of LinkedIn data. LinkedIn and a few technical sources were quick to confirm that the breach was actually from 4 years ago, and the security threat had been patched. Also, the passwords that were taken were hashed, which basically means they are indecipherable. When some of the mainstream papers picked it up they were already talking about how your password may be compromised. Later, sites that just produce click bait had headlines like “LinkedIn Breached: Time to cancel your account!”. Both versions are using scare tactics and giving out the wrong information. It’s the way the internet works now, but you do need to know where to look to get verified information.

What’s the number one thing you wish people would do to keep safe that they don’t do?

Understand and set their privacy settings. Some networks, like Facebook, are more complicated than others, but I am always surprised at the amount of public information people are giving away. Your profile and cover photos, for instance, are *always* public. That means anyone in the world can see them. On Facebook, the associated comments with those photos are also public. You can individually change that on profile photos but not cover photos. When I am doing search reports, I get a lot of information on people from reading comments on those pictures. Here are some of the other hidden settings on Facebook you should be using.

What’s #2?

All things digital should be considered permanent and potentially public. Even pictures you have stored on your personal phone that have never been sent. There are numerous ways these could make it to someone else’s hands.

What trend is most alarming? And where do you see things improving?

Online scams and malware (malicious software). When downloading apps or opening attachments, you need to always make sure they come from a reliable source. Ransomware has become very popular now, too. That’s where your device is locked until you provide financial compensation to have it unlocked. Seniors are most susceptible to these scams because they believe that an email that appears to come from their child or grandchild must be legitimate so they are not wary in opening them.

Device makers are cracking down on malware sold from their own app stores because it reflects poorly on them.

What more could schools be doing to teach digital literacy and protecting one’s information online?

There are two things at play online, proper behaviour and protection of data. The most important lesson is to help kids understand the permanence of everything they put online. That will help both define how they do things and what they put out there. When I talk to kids I give them a lot of examples of how their data is being stored and used. It is difficult for kids, and many adults, to grasp the public and permanent nature. Often with examples they can see how their actions fit in to the bigger picture. Digital Citizenship rules should also reflect both aspects of safety and reputation.

How do you convince teenagers to take data threats seriously?

Examples. Examples. Examples. And in this day and age there are lots. Kids losing jobs, nude photos being shared, people being bullied. Most people say “well that would never happen to ME”, so if you can show them other kids just like them then it helps to drive the message home.

You have been writing on this topic for awhile. What has been your most popular blog post?

The How-To blogs are always popular but the one I probably got the most feedback on was How Disney Uses Big Data. I have had that one published on several websites now. I think people like it because it shows how a situation, like visiting Disney World with your family, has been vastly improved and simplified using tech and data you don’t even see.

Do you think in the future we’ll be using bio security features more commonly, or is there a better way to protect access to our devices?

Absolutely, it’s biometric. I was actually recently in a chat with a number of internet security professionals, including several companies that make password keepers, when this question came up. The answer was unanimous. Currently we have voice print, finger print, and iris identification. Apparently finger is easiest to duplicate so companies are looking for alternatives. Typed passwords are just too susceptible to being hacked and people have too many. In the meantime, you should set up multi-factor authentication on all your important accounts. That is where you require both a password as well as an additional code provided to your phone or email that verifies you are the account holder. You would need to use all factors each time you add the account to a new device,

What’s your favourite movie about security or identity theft?

I love this question. I watch a lot of movies having to do with social media and much like movies about hospitals or tech experts, they are full of inaccuracies. I finally put together a blog on the 6 movies that best portray how social media is used. That one gets about a dozen hits a day so clearly a lot of people are asking the same thing! My favourite of the group is Men, Women, Children because it shows so many archetypes of social media and online users.

You can subscribe to Cat Coode’s newsletter and blog updates on her website, BinaryTattoo.com.

Speedy Work at Refurbathon

For those of us who live and breathe technology we couldn’t imagine not having access to a computer, so it was a natural that at some point the Year of Code campaign would include a tech drive. Since November we’d been collecting used computers to refurbish and provide to families in Waterloo Region who otherwise couldn’t afford one. A donation from the City of Kitchener of computers from the closing of Everest college was a big boost to reaching our goal. 20160528_132040

The  wonderful team at the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre let us book their space for a big Refurb-a-thon event the weekend of May 28-29 and we sent a call out for volunteers to help out for as many hours as they could. A dozen generous people gave up part of their weekend to move, clean up, test and sort some dusty towers and laptops.

IMG_20160528_160002[1]YoCWR Outreach Director Ben Rittenhouse ran the event. He said the group quickly devised a system for checking each computer, making sure it was wiped inside and out, getting new software installed and sorting the machines with monitors and power cords for each promised charity. “It was beautiful,” Ben enthused, and the team worked fast! Nearly a hundred machines were sorted and readied in less than six hours. The computers got Windows 10 or Ubuntu installed, depending on the license we had available, along with anti-virus, web browsers and media software installed.

Meanwhile, the word had gone out among local Syrian refugees that computers were available and a big line formed at the Small Business Centre of people who knew the advantage of having a computer for their family. There were way more people than computers available, but no one wanted to leave and chance missing out. Thankfully a translator came from Reception House to help explain the process, that there were only a few computers available as some were already promised to local agencies, but that those there first would have their names put on a list after those promised to some local charities to be picked up on the Sunday. Some lucky newcomers to Canada were among those who received the refurbished computers!

In total there were over eighty computers we were able to give to Extend-a-Family, Bridges to Belonging, Schlegel Villages, Syrian refugees, and the Developmental Services Resource Centre. Agencies that picked them up are dispersing them to needy people that they work with. All leftover parts, monitors, keyboards and non-working machines were donated to The Working Centre for their ongoing refurbishing program. If you have computers or time to donate, please check their website for information.

Everyone felt lucky to be able to help others get an advantage so many of us already have — technology for connecting and learning.

 

HackerGrrlz Pilot About Boosting Confidence

The first pilot session for the HackerGrrlz program finished the last week of April and perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised how sad we and the participants were to see it end!

The idea for HackerGrrlz was originated by Terre Chartrand, and was a way to provide solutions to two systemic issues at once: inspiring girls to see tech as something real women do and keep it in their education sights; and encouraging women to stay in tech or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), despite pressures that show they often leave mid-career.

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Thank you cards from the students at Our Lady of Lourdes school

What we hadn’t counted on was just how much the girls would love participating, and how much we’d enjoy helping them learn new skills, opening their eyes up to a whole new world of possibilities that were fun and not just for boys.

I acted as a mentor at Preston Public School, and the first day we had everyone go around the room and share their name and why they wanted to be in HackerGrrlz. In timid voices they shared they wanted to learn to code.

We started them with the Hour of Code puzzles, and everyone chose Minecraft. The puzzles are a great way to get one thinking about steps and tasks, and how to count, the basics for learning to code. Just how many times do you need to add a move forward and place block instruction? When do you add a turn? Soon we needed to move on to a more challenging activity: Scratch.

Scratch has a really inviting interface with a canvas you can draw characters and backdrops in. Many of the girls started to spend a lot of time drawing and not so much “programming” with the drag-and-drop code blocks at first. Until we had them watch a video on creating a game. “That’s when you saw the lights go on,” shared mentor Joelle Curcio, who worked at N.A. McEachern P.S., “they started to get ideas for what they could do.”

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Mentors from the first pilot session.

As a mentor (at Our Lady of Lourdes), Joan Currie said that it was “neat to see the evolution over six weeks.” YoCWR Campaign Director Stephanie Rozek agreed and shared, “One girl said at the start ‘I’m really bad at math.’ But with every bit of info we gave them their confidence grew.”

The girls who participated were aged 9 to 13 which we found made a big difference in ways we didn’t expect, such as comprehension of what is a website compared to an app or a game? At the schools where there was time to move beyond Scratch to Thimble, Mozilla’s online code editor with sample projects and tutorials, the leap from drag-and-drop code blocks to editing HTML web pages wasn’t always as simple, which we think may be related to the girls’ ages. That’s where we’ll try to approach it differently in the second pilot – framing the discussion so they better understand what they’re working with.

Creating comic strips using Thimble

One school group was so advanced Stephanie decided new material was needed. Mentor Sam Campbell developed learning content around the real-world programming language Python.The girls were keen to learn! They started with the Codecademy intro to Python, and then Sam took a cue from the success of the Scratch game and created a Python number guessing game where the girls had to come up with the algorithm. For some girls this became their favourite part of the program, despite the challenges!

The second pilot session starts next week with another amazing group of mentors: programmers, tech team leads, development consultants, educators, grad students, and even one marketer (myself). If you or a woman you know is interested in participating in the fall program, fill out the participation form on our pilot page. Schools are welcome, too.

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Some of the mentors for the 2nd pilot session.

Many thanks are due to all the amazing women who gave their time as mentors and made a difference to the girls who participated, and to the schools and teachers who helped make it happen. There will be a HackerGrrlz project wall published on this website in the near future for all the girls to see their different projects and share with their parents; be sure to check them out!

Q&As with Change the Ratio Waterloo Region speakers

Get to know our speakers for Change the Ratio Waterloo Region March 10th. They’ve shared some personal and professional experiences in these Q&As for our blog, below.

Plus you can view the whole event on YouTube.

DinahDavisProfile Dinah Davis, director of R&D at Arctic Wolf Networks and founder of code.likeagirl.io @code_likeagirl
Alice Thomas Alice Thomas, Chief Digital Technology Officer, Sun Life Financial
dinah_shi_600 Dinah Shi, Director, Women Who Code Waterloo @DinahShi
Michelle DeBeyer Michelle DeBeyer, Human Resources Business Partner, Google
Tony Brijpaul Anthony Brijpaul, co-founder, Miovision @Tony_Brijpaul

More to come…

Time to Spring Clean Your Digital Accounts

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In this day and age, the average person has around 100 digital accounts registered to their name. Consider how many you have between just social networks, banking, online shopping, and email. Most of these are accounts that you use, but there are also going to be a number of one-off accounts that you may have signed up for which you have forgotten about. Keeping all these accounts active leaves you susceptible to having information taken, especially if you have re-used passwords. Each piece of your personal information online adds to your digital identity or Binary Tattoo: ‘Binary’ for the language of computers, and ‘Tattoo’ for its permanence. Everyone online has this Binary Tattoo so it is important to know what yours looks like and how to safeguard your private information.

In the spirit of spring cleaning, it’s a great time to clean up your digital presence. Here is your 3 step plan for online spring maintenance:

Step 1: List all of your online accounts. Harder than it sounds. If you can’t remember which ones you have, try typing some key words in to your email search like “welcome” or “login” or “account”.

Tip: Once you have the list, this is a good time to also make a list of your passwords for safekeeping.

Step 2: Decide if you use the account or not. You’ll probably have a list of accounts you don’t use now but may again. In some cases, like Facebook for example, you can disable an account so the information is saved but not one else on the system knows you are still there. This way you can reactivate later. Just be aware that even inactive accounts could cause information about you to continue to accumulate on those networks.

Step 3: Take action on each account. Delete those you are done with. Deactivate those you may be unsure of. For those accounts you do decide to keep, take the time to review the privacy settings. They change often and may be different than when you signed on. Instructions for deletion of just about any account can be found by searching the website/network name and the words ‘delete account’.

Caveat: There are web services that are constantly taking snapshots of online public data like Profile Pictures and account names. Just because you delete an account, or increase privacy levels, does not necessarily mean that formerly-public pictures or attachments are gone.

Stay safe online, have fun!

 

Cat Coode is the founder of Binary Tattoo. Her mission is to help educate people with the knowledge of how an online identity is first created and then developed; Empowering them to control how theirs evolves in the online world. With an increased awareness in digital safety, we can all enjoy the benefits of online communities while minimizing the risks. Cat is also an engineer, speaker, consultant, blogger, and, above all else, a parent. Her motivation to help others was born out of her concern for her kids and the new generations growing up in an ever-changing digital landscape. For personal online audits, free downloads, tips, and lots more information, check us out at www.BinaryTattoo.com.

Change The Ratio QA with Michelle DeBeyer

Michelle DeBeyerMichelle DeBeyer is a Human Resources Business Partner at Google. She will be speaking at Change The Ratio Waterloo Region about the company’s program to bring to light employees’ subconscious bias. She shared with us how the program has helped her as a parent.

Can you remember a time when you experienced bias, as a child and/or an adult? What happened and how did you handle it?  

As a child I was definitely steered towards more traditionally female jobs.  I came from a traditional household where I was encouraged to be a teacher, a nurse, and a wife and mother.  I was never told I could even be an engineer or something equivalent.  I try to be more open with my three daughters and they know they can do anything.

How do you wish to influence and change your own workplace culture? 

Google has lofty goals and I believe in them.  I want to make Google and Google Canada in particular the best work environment in the world.  The most tolerant and the most respectful.  A place where people can bring their authentic self to work and thrive.  I think we are doing a good job – but we can always do better.

Are there unconscious biases that you’ve noticed in yourself? How do you catch yourself and unlearn them?

I totally have biases – everyone does. I did our unconscious bias test and I know I still think of some parenting tasks as female for example.

I didn’t know that I did until I did the test, but these biases stem from our childhood and since I have an amazing traditional mom who was a great nurturer, who gave me a great childhood, this made me want to take on that role and give my girls those same amazing feelings.

Knowing this bias in myself was helpful. I work full-time and the belief in the traditional mother role caused more stress on myself. Knowing that helped me realize I don’t have to do all those things and my husband can help out – and I can outsource – and that is OK!  So recognizing that I was biased and I was putting that on myself was extremely helpful.

Hear Michelle talk about the Google employee Bias Busters program at Change the Ratio Waterloo Region March 10th. Register>

Change The Ratio QA with Dinah Shi

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dinah_shi_600Dinah Shi has been gaining experience in tech while still a student at the University of Waterloo. She’s learning the challenges women face and doing something about it, starting up the Waterloo chapter of Women Who Code. Here’s her Q&A in advance of her talk at Change The Ratio Waterloo Region March 10th.

Can you remember a time when you experienced bias, as a child and/or an adult? What happened and how did you handle it? Is there something you would do differently today?

A comment that I used to hear a lot was, “You got that because you’re a girl.” There are variations of this message: “You got into that prestigious program because you’re a girl.” “You got that scholarship because you’re a girl.” “You landed that interview because you’re a girl.” I hated hearing that but I never knew how to respond. I didn’t know much about screening processes and hiring practices so a part of me was afraid there was truth to those comments and that I didn’t deserve these accolades.

I learned to ignore those comments by owning up to my successes. I know how hard I work and how much I deserve the opportunities I have; I don’t need to justify that to people who are trying to deflect their own insecurities by degrading my accomplishments.

Truth be told, I’m still not really sure how to respond to these comments. They are often muttered in casual social settings where I don’t want to be argumentative. Sometimes I let it go. Sometimes I try to explain why the comment is hurtful no matter how harmless it may seem. The most important thing I’ve learned to do is surround myself with people who support me and don’t put others down in order to make themselves feel better.

How do you wish to influence and change work culture in Waterloo Region?

Waterloo is known for producing great technical talent and entrepreneurs but I think the conversation on diversity is lacking. I started the KW Diversity Report because I want companies in Waterloo Region to come together and make a commitment to diversity and inclusion. The report aims to show the business value of diverse teams, bring transparency to the current state of diversity in local companies, and encourage people to actively think about inclusion as they craft their company culture. Tech companies in Waterloo Region are collectively thinking about how to make it an attractive place for talent; I want to make it clear that this invitation is open to talent from all walks of life.

There have been a few articles in the media about women leaving technology jobs, because of the environment. What has been your experience, especially having worked in Silicon Valley?

I don’t think any woman working in technology can avoid the environment issue. It extends beyond the office: not feeling like you belong because tech events are catered towards young men, knowing that people make assumptions about you based on how you look, having less access to networks because you don’t follow the same sports or like the same beer as everyone else. People don’t give enough credit to how these little things build up over time. And the experience is not unique to women – the triggers may be different but it’s felt by everyone outside of the majority.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in some amazing teams. At Yelp, I got to be a part of the employee resource group for women in engineering. Not only did I meet a ton of role models, I was also exposed to a network of women in engineering groups at other companies including Square and Airbnb. We had joint events, attended talks together, and shared knowledge on ways to support women in our respective teams. I know this experience is not shared by all women in Silicon Valley but I do want to praise these companies for recognizing diversity as a priority and investing in it.

Is there someone you remember who either stood up for you, or made a difference in you being perceived as an equal, or who made you comfortable about speaking up? How did they do that?

I don’t wear tech shirts and hoodies every day; that’s just not who I am. I like skirts and dresses and shoes that aren’t sneakers. I remember a few coworkers once commenting that I didn’t fit in due to my attire. I don’t think they meant any harm but I felt like I had to change the way I dressed to belong. A woman outside of the engineering organization overheard and told me that she loved that I brought some stylish flair into the office. She told me to wear whatever made me feel good and see standing out as an asset. That helped me gain the confidence to not only dress how I wanted but also embrace all the little things that make me unique.

Why did you start the Waterloo chapter of Women Who Code? Was there a specific moment that caused you to say, I’m doing this?

Women Who Code Waterloo was founded when one of the advisors of Women Who Code, Stephanie Shupe, gave a talk at the University of Waterloo about staying connected with other women in industry. She shared some of the events that Women Who Code San Francisco hosts and how they help support women in technical roles, women considering a career change into tech, and women looking to connect with other technical women. Their mission and impact really resonated with me. Afterwards, myself and 5 other women decided that we wanted to recreate the same kind of network here in Waterloo. Connecting and empowering women in technology is still our mission today.

Are there unconscious biases that you’ve noticed in yourself? How do you catch yourself and unlearn them?
I am pretty young and sometimes I can see people sizing me up and dismissing me as inexperienced due to my age. So it’s kind of ironic that I catch myself underestimating young people. As soon as I am aware of this, I remind myself of how awful it feels when it happens to me and how impossible it is to gauge a person’s experience without knowing their story.

How have you addressed the issue of gender and ethnic bias with your peers? How do you start that conversation?

I am really lucky in that I know some really intelligent, driven young women who work in tech. We know that we tend to be outnumbered in class and in the office so we really lean on each other for support. We’re very candid with each other and cut to the chase when we discuss bias. A friend of mine recently sent me a Facebook message saying she felt like she wasn’t heard at work and her manager wasn’t taking her seriously enough. Another told me that she was feeling really pessimistic about the industry after reading some articles about women who were unfairly treated at work. Sometimes I just listen and sometimes we try to come up with actionable steps to address the issue.

Hear what local companies are doing to make their companies more inclusive of young women like her, and how she wants help others like her by influencing company culture through the KW Diversity Report, join us at Change The Ratio Waterloo Region March 10th. 

Change The Ratio Q&A with Anthony Brijpaul

Tony BrijpaulTony Brijpaul is co-founder of Miovision and passionate about diversity within his company. I was really happy he could join us for Change The Ratio Waterloo Region, as a representative of our local startup tech community (although they just celebrated their 10th anniversary!) and a male business leader standing up for women. In this short Q&A Tony shares some of the thinking and actions at Miovision to counter bias and create an inclusive work environment, and how it came to be his personal passion.

How did you become personally invested in getting more women into tech and creating a welcoming work environment?

I first really started thinking about the topic of women in technology and science when I became a father. My daughter Ella is a year and a half, and like any Dad I already envision that she is going to be an Engineer someday, and maybe even start her own tech company. I’ve wondered though, if that’s going to be possible?  As a woman, will she be encouraged to study math and science, or have the entrepreneurial role models that I had?

My wife is an Accountant and has a very successful career of her own. She has encouraged me to be more than just a role model for my daughter. She inspired me to take a stand on this topic and to use my position of leadership to influence inclusive practices at Miovision.

I will always strive to be a role model by setting a good example and supporting my daughter in any career she wants to pursue, but I also have a responsibility to extend that support to the current and future women at Miovision. Life and career should be dictated by passion, education and experience, not gender.

How do you wish to influence and change your own workplace culture? 

We are currently focusing on a lot of different ways to build a meritocracy at Miovision, as it is a key focus for us as we continue to grow our company and evolve our culture.  An example of this would be the recent launch of unlimited vacation as it shows that we respect and trust our employees. Understanding however, that unconscious biases often influence who we believe “people of merit” to be.  We need to work on changing those unconscious biases within our own culture by simply accepting the fact that they do exist and educating people on it.

The large tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook have been tracking their hiring stats on men/women, caucasians/visible minorities — is this something you are looking at doing at Miovision or as a young company how do you approach diversity?

Yes, we do track stats internally.  We are currently looking at our women vs men ratio and trying to dig a little deeper on how we as a company can attract more women to be excited to want to come and work for us. We have a diversity committee which I am part of and we have a goal of hiring more women into Miovision, specifically in Sales and Engineering.  Our goal is, and has always been, to hire the best of the best, no matter what gender or ethnicity. We know there are brilliant women Engineers and Developers out there and we want them to come work for us. Apply within!

How have you addressed the issue of gender and ethnic bias with your peers? How do you start that conversation?

Yes, I think all people have had to deal with this at some point in time. People need to be educated about their biases – whether unconscious or not. Addressing these issues head on, no matter how difficult, has to be done to maintain a comfortable and welcoming environment for all employees. We are very adamant about implementing and adhering to all of the appropriate employee training to avoid these issues, but if and when they come up, it is dealt with immediately.

You can hear more from Tony, including some of his personal stories, at Change the Ratio Waterloo Region March 10th. We’d especially appreciate more men coming to support their women colleagues — Register today!

Change the Ratio Q&A with Dinah Davis

DinahDavisProfileDinah Davis is a passionate promoter of women in tech and advocate for changing the ratio. She is founder of code.likeagirl.io and Director of R&D at Arctic Wolf Networks. Dinah will be speaking at our March 10 Change the Ratio Waterloo Region event. Here she shares some of her personal experience as a woman working in tech.

Can you remember a time when you experienced bias, as a child and/or an adult? What happened and how did you handle it?

When I was in high school I was very good at mathematics. I often got top marks in the class, but when it came to knowing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life I had no idea. So I went to the school career counselor for advice. He said “wow, you have great math marks, you should be a math teacher.” Had I been a boy I don’t believe that would have been his answer. In fact, all the guys I took advanced calculus with and attained the same grades as me were told to be engineers.

But I only really realized this later on. At 17 I listened to the counselor and was planning to become a teacher, only to find out in university my true love lay with mathematics, computer science, and cryptography.

How do you wish to influence and change your own workplace culture? 

I do my best to keep own unconscious biases under check, I focus on hiring a diverse workforce, and I call out any sexist or biased actions I see. I also mentor other women both in my own workplace and outside.

There have been a few articles in the media about women leaving technology jobs, because of the environment. Have you been in a job where you were tempted to leave?

I know a few women that have left to start their own business, but no one that has all out quit tech full stop.  I have left jobs where I felt discriminated for similar roles in other tech companies. I have never considered quitting tech. I love it, I belong here.

Is there someone you remember who either stood up for you, or made a difference in you being perceived as an equal, or who made you comfortable about speaking up? How did they do that?

This happened in my undergraduate degree. I asked a male professor if I should consider doing a master’s degree. He dismissively asked me what my grades were. I said my GPA was 3.8/4.0 overall but in the last 2 years achieved a 4.0/4.0.  He said “well I guess your grades are good enough.” But offered no other encouragement.

A few weeks later Dr. Shelly Wismath, a full mathematics professor, saw me in the hall and asked why I hadn’t applied for scholarships for a graduate degree. I replied saying I wasn’t sure if I was good enough. She encouragingly asked what my grades were. I gave her the same answer. She then said excitedly that they were fantastic and that I should absolutely apply and I should look at schools.

I did end up at the University of Waterloo and eventually received the scholarship.

What is the ratio of women and men, and Caucasian and visible minorities within the companies you’ve worked at, is this something they were consciously tracking? 

I don’t think any company I have worked for has actively tracked their numbers. My current company actively hires for diversity in gender, culture and academic background. We will be part of Dinah Shi’s gender diversity report.

Are there unconscious biases that you’ve noticed in yourself? How do you catch yourself and unlearn them?

Everyone has unconscious biases no matter how hard we try not to. The important thing is to catch yourself.  I have noticed this most with my daughter. Last year when I found out The Museum March break camp theme was dinosaurs I cringed inside thinking she wouldn’t want to attend, I almost started looking for other camps. But I told myself, no, let her choose. So I asked if she wanted to go to dinosaur camp. She jumped up and down and said yes!

Hear more from Dinah by registering for Change The Ration Waterloo Region coming up on March 10th!  Share your own experiences in the comments or on social media. On Twitter tag your tweets #ChangeTheRatioWR #HeForShe @YoCWR

Change the Ratio Q&A with Alice Thomas

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Alice_larger_photo_DSC_4353Year of Code Waterloo Region had a chance to catch up with Alice Thomas, Chief Digital Technology Officer at Sun Life Financial, and one of the speakers at our upcoming Change the Ratio event.

Here’s what she shared in response to our questions:

Can you remember a time when you experienced bias, as a child or an adult? What happened and how did you handle it? Is there something you would do differently today?

Yes, when I was in junior high school I was elected to the Student Council. A student, who wasn’t even elected, bullied her way into all our council meetings and frequently stepped over my comments and decisions. As a newly arrived immigrant, I was too timid and afraid to voice my concern. I let it happen. If it happened today, I would find a diplomatic way of dealing with the situation, and I would definitely speak up.

How do you wish to influence and change your own workplace culture?
Within our technology department, we have a great culture where men and women are treated fairly and equitably. Opportunities are available to everyone. However, I would like to see more women ‘raise their hands’ – whether it is speaking up, applying for roles, asking for a promotion, etc. I think we have more work to do in this area.

Is there someone you remember who either stood up for you, or made a difference in you being perceived as an equal, or who made you comfortable about speaking up? How did they do that?
I had a great boss who actually stepped in at the right time in my career. I was the only woman on the team and lacked confidence in myself. My boss noticed the good work I did and encouraged me to apply for a promotion, and championed me to get it. As women, sometimes we think our work will speak for itself, but we have to step up to the plate as well!

What is the ratio of women and men, and caucasian and visible minorities within the technology departments at Sun Life Financial? Is this something the company is trying to track?
We have a very healthy ratio of women and men (close to 40% women), and we also represent a very diverse ethnic mix. In addition, we are actively aiming at increasing the mix of the “millennials”, an area that I personally have been spending a lot of time championing.

Want to hear more from Alice? Join us at the Change the Ratio Waterloo Region event on Thursday, March 10. Tickets are free, but you do need to register in advance.

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