Year 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.