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 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

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