This was the first year the WIL&T group, a division of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Partners (IAMCP), and in sponsorship with Microsoft Canada and Mercer-MacKay Solutions Inc., hosted a meet and greet event for women professionals in the IT industry.
The event was held at Microsoft Canada’s head office, located in Mississauga, Ont. and brought together more than 60 attendees.
Getting to know you
The purpose of the meet and mingle event was to show women who work in the technology field and in different leadership roles, the benefits of joining both the IAMCP and WIL&T groups. The IAMCP is a non-profit organization that gives Microsoft partners a voice within the partner ecosystem and in the IT industry at large. Within that, the WIL&T division represents a group of women professionals in the Microsoft partner field. The WIL&T group allows women professionals to network and build relationships with one another.
Faces from all over town
In order to join WIL&T, members must first become part of IAMCP, Jacqueline Hutchinson, chair of WIL&T said. Companies have to be either registered with Microsoft, or they must be at the very least, a Microsoft partner at the entry level. Registration for the year costs $195 and gives members access to discounts on Microsoft training programs, insurance and other services, access to networking events, resources and more.
Gail Mercer-MacKay, who is the president of Mercer-MacKay Solutions Inc., a company that provides sales and marketing services to better help Microsoft partners increase their profitability, is also the incoming chair for the WIL&T group, effective in June.
MacKay says she’s always been passionate about women mentoring and working with one another.
“Sometimes women face different challenges than our male colleagues and this is a way for (women) to come together as a group,” she said. “I’d like to see this group grow anywhere between 200 and 300 members across Canada.”
Barb Cummings, director of business development at Brodie Computes, a consulting and customer relationship management solution provider located in Guelph, Ont., and also a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, says she sees the benefit in joining IAMCP and WIL&T.
“I see that the amount of people going into technology has dropped off and I think that’s because a lot of young people don’t really understand what the industry has to offer,” Cummings said. “Maybe we (as a group) could change that (ideology) because technology’s not going away.”
Mercer-MacKay says interested parties that would like to get involved with IAMCP and WIL&T can either join through the IAMCP’s Facebook group on the Web, or they can join through IAMCP’s Web site to get in touch with either herself, or the IAMCP’s president, Stuart Crawford, who was formerly with Calgary-based systems integration company, IT Matters.
Giving women a voice
WIL&T will be taking part in various outreach events throughout the year to reach potential members via blogs and active recruitment, Mercer-MacKay said.
The IT industry presents a tremendous opportunity for women to succeed in jobs that they do well in, she adds. Joining WIL&T would be a way for them then, to showcase and share experiences with other members.
Happy to be a woman in IT
Lora Gernon, senior director of Microsoft Canada’s partner group, gave a keynote speech at the event and gave some examples of her own experiences being a woman in the IT industry.
Gernon says although she was only one of three graduating woman from the University of Waterloo’s physics program, that did not stop her from working in IT in a partner sales leadership role upon graduation.
Women working in the IT industry are opportunities that should be capitalized on, Gernon says.
Why women are good for business
Gernon cited information from the European Commission: Women in Science and Technology, The Business Perspective from 2006, stating that women represent less than 26 per cent of the total workforce. She also quoted that only two-thirds of women who have a strong math and/or sciences track record actually move beyond high school to study in that field.
“Women need to realize there are advantages of gender diversity such as great expertise, practical experience and a high level of motivation,” Gernon said. “As women, we have to push the work/life balance and follow what (we) love, because when you love something, you can overcome any obstacle that may come in your way.”
Dynamic Microsoft duo
Gernon says she encourages Microsoft partners to take advantage of all that the company has to offer in terms of demand generation campaigns, spiffs, rebates, training, toolkits and so forth, in addition to the benefits offered by the IAMCP.