International Girls in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Day

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Today is International Girls in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Day, a day set aside to encourage girls and women to consider careers in ‘tech’. It’s no surprise that women are under-represented in the ICT sector. Many theories have been put forward as to why.

In Canada, about 25 per cent of the ICT workforce are women. This number hasn’t changed much in the past decade, which means we have a lot of work to do.

In terms of overall numbers, CIRA appears to be doing well with regard to employing women. Currently, 40 per cent of our staff is female. However, that number declines to 28 per cent when we just count our Development and Operations Teams.

Personally, I’d like to see that number much higher.

To learn more about what it’s like working in ICT for women, I spoke with a couple of CIRA’s female employees. Below is what they told me, in their own words. Please share these stories with young women that you think can benefit from reading them.

Anne-Marie Walton, Application Developer

Why did you choose a career in technology?

I never thought I would have a career in IT. I wasn’t exposed to computers very much when I was young so I was scared of using computers.

I first discovered IT in university. I wasn’t happy with my major, which was geology, and a friend suggested I try a few courses in computer science. I tried a few courses and loved them so much that I decided to switch my major to computer science. I’m so happy I did!

What is it like working in a male dominated field?

Sometimes it’s challenging. Some people are not very accepting of women in this field. On the other hand, there are some people who are fantastically happy to see women represented in the field. You just learn to be tolerant of people who haven’t entered the current century and try not to take anything too personally.

Any advice for young women who might be considering a career in technology?

If you love working in the IT environment, don’t let the fact that it is a male dominated field stop you from pursuing it.

Why do you love working in IT?

I love the fact that it’s constantly changing. There are always new problems to solve. It’s challenging and interesting.


Irena Zamboni, Quality Assurance Specialist

Why did you choose a career in technology?

I did a survey in high school about what areas you are good at.  It came back as math, science and business.

Engineering was one of those fields that I knew would open doors. It never dawned on me that software was a career.

I did an undergrad in electrical engineering and a Masters in biomedical engineering. During this time, I had a job doing software testing. I really enjoyed troubleshooting software.

You use a lot of critical thinking. No one day of the job is the same. I’m pretty social, and being that it’s a job that works with a lot of other departments in an organization, I really enjoyed that.

Did you have any role models that inspired you to enter the field?

My dad is a mechanical engineer and my mom is a teacher. I was big into Legos, so I think my parents noticed that side of me and encouraged it. I was also inquisitive and I like to use my hands.

In high school, I took a tech class and killed it. I was the only girl in the class and I got the highest mark. The guys were upset.

I didn’t know if I wanted to go into IT at the time, but I took that class to see what the field was about and what the options were.

What is it like working in a male dominated field?

I personally love it. I find guys easy to get along with.

I’m a bit of a tomboy. It never felt odd to be surrounded by more men than women.

I think the biggest thing is to see yourself outside of your gender. My parents never talked about engineering as male dominated, or nursing as female dominated. I just saw (myself in field) as part of the norm.

Any advice for young women who might be considering a career in technology?

Take everything that is available to you and at least try it. Don’t make up your mind about something without trying it. Don’t be afraid of making a change. Don’t do something that makes others happy. Do something that makes you happy.

The Montréal Internet Exchange

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This week marks an important milestone in the ongoing development of the Internet in Canada. At an event attended by dozens of partner organizations and government representatives, a new Internet Exchange Point (IXP) was launched in Montréal.

CIRA’s director of IT, Jacques Latour, represented CIRA at that event, as CIRA worked with a group of partners to establish the Montréal Internet Exchange, also known as QIX.

Réseau d’informations scientifiques du Québec (RISQ), Quebec’s non-profit scientific information network will operate QIX. Other partners included Fibrenoire, Cogeco Data Services, Metro Optic, RISQ,, Groupe Teltech Inc., Cologix, and Google to create this IXP.

In June of last year, CIRA made public our work with interested community partners across Canada to facilitate the creation of more IXPs. QIX demonstrates that we are following through on that commitment and in the months to come, we will continue to work with partners in other cities in Canada, including in Winnipeg.

As I’ve explained in the past, creating more IXPs is fundamentally about making Canada’s Internet infrastructure more robust, secure and resilient and reducing the cost of access for all Canadians. This video from European Internet Exchange Association provides the best explanation I’ve seen about how IXPs work.

The benefits of IXPs are not inconsequential. It’s become old news that Canadians pay among the highest rates in the industrialized world for Internet speeds that are comparatively slow. There were only two IXPs in Canada previously. This has resulted in an inferior Internet infrastructure compared to Canada’s international counterparts. The U.S., by comparison, has 85 IXPs, and Sweden, a country of nine million people and an advanced Internet economy, has 12 IXPs.

Consider that the Internet, which today represents about three per cent of Canada’s GDP, is expected to account for as much as seven per cent by 2016. That equates to $75 billion, twice the size of the forestry industry, an industry upon which this country was built. It’s also larger than the tourism industry. It’s a dollar figure that represents high-value jobs in IT and other related industries. This is wealth that is created here in Canada and, to a great degree, remains here in Canada.

But as I said in February at the kick-off event for our 2013 Canadian Internet Forum, it isn’t just about the money. The Internet is the greatest driver of economic and social change the world has ever seen. Fundamentally it has become the great equalizer. It gives voice to the voiceless and creates opportunity for all.

It is for these reasons that we at CIRA consider the continued growth of Canada’s IXP fabric to be essential for the long-term stability and reliability of a domestic Internet; an Internet that is accessible and affordable to all Canadians; an Internet that will fuel our global competitiveness through the 21st century and beyond.