Navigating Gender Equality in the IT Landscape

Interview with Hanna Abdel Hamid, Head of Sigma Software Canada

Recently, Sigma Software has won the title of Best Workplace for Women in Tech as a category in The Women in Tech Global Awards 2023. Best Workplace for Women in Tech celebrates companies for creating an environment where women can thrive and succeed in the tech field, are recognized as leaders in promoting gender diversity and inclusion within the industry.

Sigma Software has 35% of women in the company against the average of 25% in the industry and keeps working on attracting women to tech professions. Many women, who work in the company, promote gender parity in IT and fight prejudice related to gender roles. One of them is Hanna Abdel Hamid – Strong Woman in IT 2023 and a frequent speaker on DEI-related topics.

Hanna actively participates in various community initiatives and serves as a board member for a non-profit organization. She is highly engaged and enthusiastic about promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. She mentors women and non-binary people in the early stages of their careers, helping them navigate their professional paths and achieve their goals.

Hanna Abdel Hamid, Head of Sigma Software Canada

We talked to Hanna about her path in IT, the benefits of gender equality, and the reasons why she nominated Sigma Software for the Best Workplace for Women in Tech award.

Hanna, when have you decided to join IT?

I have a bachelor’s degree in political science because politics is a passion for me. I initially wanted to become a university professor but after teaching for a year I realized that this is not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I worked in property management for 3 years, then product development and finally switched to sales and business development. I transitioned into the IT field when I became managing director of an HR & Recruitment firm specializing in recruitment of software development and IT support professionals. This is when I first met Sigma Software and signed them on as a client, and after 8 months of cooperation with Sigma Software, I was offered the opportunity to join Sigma Software by leading the Canadian division.

What is the current situation with gender equality in IT? Is there a positive trend?

Gender parity in the IT sector is something I am very interested in. Unfortunately, women make only 25% of workers in the tech industry according to research conducted by Women in Tech Network, which is the world’s leading organization for inclusion, diversity and equity in STEM. Furthermore, women make only 11% of workers at the executive level in tech companies. For comparison, we in Sigma Software have 50% women in managerial roles and 35% of all company specialists.

Sigma Software Group ecosystem

What is most shocking to me is the fact that 1 in 5 women working in tech admit wanting to leave this industry because they feel bullied, underappreciated, and always passed over for promotions. The good news is that many companies are now making an effort to change this trend and encourage women to advance their careers in tech.

Hanna, would you please share the details on the award?

The Womentech Global Awards is an esteemed recognition program that celebrates and acknowledges the outstanding contributions of companies and individuals in a specific category.

The criteria for selecting the company that will win the prestigious title of “Best Workplace for Women in Tech” are comprehensive and focus on various aspects. These include the company’s commitment to gender equality through policies, initiatives, and programs aimed at empowering women in tech roles.

The evaluation also considers the company’s track record in promoting diversity, ensuring equal pay, providing opportunities for career advancement, fostering a supportive and inclusive workplace culture, and actively addressing issues such as harassment and bias. Companies that excel in these areas, creating an environment where women can thrive and succeed in the tech field, are recognized as leaders in promoting gender diversity and inclusion within the industry.

Why have you decided to nominate Sigma Software?

I have nominated Sigma Software for this award because I genuinely believe we deserve to win. Sigma Software provides invaluable opportunities for women within their team, offering access to support and mentoring that greatly benefits career growth. The company fosters an environment of trust between colleagues and management, promoting a spirit of collaboration that is truly commendable. Moreover, the company is dedicated to achieving gender parity in its executive management teams, demonstrating its commitment to equality.

On a personal note, Sigma Software has allowed me to pursue my passion for advocating diversity, equity, inclusion, and gender parity. They have encouraged me to deliver keynote speeches at renowned conferences, raising awareness about these crucial topics. Additionally, I feel unwavering support from my colleagues and direct manager in pursuing all my professional growth ambitions.

Best Workplace for Women in Tech

How has gender equality in the company changed over the years? Can you see the increasing interest in the issue, and why do you think it grows over time?

I joined Sigma Software nearly two years ago, and right from the start, I was impressed by the significant presence of women in high managerial positions, a rarity in the tech industry. What struck me even more was the proactive involvement of many female managers at the company in their respective communities. Personally, I’ve been actively mentoring new immigrant women in Montreal and providing guidance to young women and non-binary individuals, helping them navigate their educational and career paths.

Sigma Software Gender Statistics

This commitment to supporting one another is a common thread among the women at Sigma Software, all dedicated to advancing the careers of their peers in the tech sector. Additionally, as the company expands globally, there’s a growing emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts. I’ve had the opportunity to participate in DEI panels with colleagues and deliver keynote speeches on overcoming unconscious bias at two different internal Sigma conferences. The company consistently promotes women’s initiatives across various levels, fostering an inclusive and empowering environment.

Why do you think we should strive for gender equality?

Gender parity is a winning business strategy for all companies regardless of the field. Having women at managerial and executive levels in tech companies can bring about several benefits, including:

  1. Diverse Perspectives and Innovation: Women often have different life experiences, viewpoints, and problem-solving approaches compared to their male counterparts. When women are represented in managerial and executive roles, they bring diverse perspectives to the decision-making process. This diversity of thought can lead to more innovative solutions, creative problem-solving, and a broader range of ideas. Different viewpoints can help identify opportunities and challenges that might not have been considered otherwise, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within the company.
  2. Improved Company Culture and Employee Satisfaction: Gender diversity at leadership levels sends a positive message to all employees, regardless of their gender. It demonstrates that the company values inclusivity, equal opportunities, and a fair work environment. This inclusive culture can contribute to higher employee morale, increased job satisfaction, and better retention rates. When employees see women in leadership roles, they are more likely to believe that their contributions will be recognized and rewarded based on merit, leading to a more motivated and engaged workforce.
  3. Enhanced Decision-Making and Problem Solving: Research has shown that diverse teams make better decisions and solve complex problems more effectively. Having women in managerial and executive positions helps prevent groupthink and fosters a culture of healthy debate and constructive dissent. When individuals from various backgrounds collaborate and contribute their unique insights, the decision-making process becomes more robust and balanced. This ultimately leads to better strategic choices, reduced blind spots, and a higher likelihood of achieving successful outcomes.

Incorporating women into managerial and executive roles in tech companies is not only a matter of gender equality but also a strategic advantage that can drive innovation, strengthen company culture, and improve overall business performance.

Why this matter is important for you? In what way you`re involved in Women in Tech and promotion of gender equality?

This matter is close to my heart for two reasons: first, as a woman, and second, because I strongly believe in equal opportunities for everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, or orientation.

I’m actively involved in promoting women in tech through my work at Sigma Software and personally. I give keynote speeches at global events like Gitex Africa, Women in Tech Global Conference, Women in AI Canada, and Collision Conference, inspiring women to pursue tech careers and overcome challenges.

Hanna Abdel Hamid keynote speaker at GITEX Africa

I’m dedicated to promoting gender parity and DEI in the tech industry. I am involved with WREPQ, which is a program put in place by YES Montreal and the government of Quebec. This program aims to help women from different walks of life and backgrounds to go back to the job market, transition their careers, or simply begin their careers as new immigrants. I support the program by holding webinars & workshops on key issues such as breaking the glass ceiling, overcoming imposter syndrome, among other relevant topics. I also mentor women and non-binary folks to help them navigate the challenges of pursuing a career in the tech industry.

I’m driven by the belief that diversity in tech fuels progress and innovation, making the industry more inclusive and impactful.

What, in your opinion, prevents the industry from reaching gender equality?

Several factors contribute to the tech industry’s struggle to achieve gender equality. Some of these include:

  1. Historical Imbalance: The tech industry has historically been male dominated, with a lack of diversity at all levels. This imbalance has led to a self-perpetuating cycle where the existing gender gap makes it challenging to attract and retain women in the field.
  2. Implicit Bias and Stereotypes: Unconscious biases and stereotypes can influence hiring, promotion, and performance evaluations. These biases can lead to women being overlooked for opportunities or underestimated in their abilities, perpetuating the gender gap.
  3. Pipeline Issues: There are fewer women pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, which creates a smaller pool of female candidates for tech roles. Addressing this requires efforts to encourage girls and young women to pursue STEM education and careers.
  4. Hostile or Exclusive Culture: Some tech workplaces have a culture that is not welcoming to women, with instances of harassment, discrimination, and exclusion. Such environments can discourage women from pursuing or remaining in tech careers.
  5. Lack of Representation: The scarcity of women in leadership and prominent roles in the industry creates a lack of visible role models for aspiring female tech professionals. Representation is crucial for inspiring and encouraging women to enter and excel in the field.
  6. Work-Life Balance Challenges: The tech industry’s demanding work culture and long hours can clash with family responsibilities, disproportionately affecting women and leading to attrition from the industry.
  7. Impostor Syndrome: Many women in tech may experience impostor syndrome, feeling like they don’t belong or aren’t as competent as their male peers. This can impact confidence and career advancement.
  8. Unequal Opportunities: Women in tech often face unequal opportunities for mentorship, sponsorship, and access to high-impact projects, which are critical for career growth.
  9. Pay Disparities: Gender pay gaps persist in the tech industry, with women often earning less than their male counterparts for similar roles.

What can we do to reach it? What our company does already?

Achieving complete gender parity in the tech industry remains a challenge, and no single tech company can be definitively said to have achieved perfect gender equality at all levels. Addressing the barriers causing the inequality between men and women in tech requires concerted efforts from tech companies, educational institutions, policymakers, and society at large. Initiatives focused on diversity and inclusion, unbiased hiring practices, mentorship, and sponsorship programs, and creating supportive work environments are essential for achieving gender equality in the tech industry.

However, some tech companies have made notable efforts to improve gender diversity and create a more inclusive environment. Sigma Software together with the Danir Group developed Femmeginnering project, that aims to build a female IT community and inspire women to join the tech industry by sharing stories of success, launching educational events, providing free access to IT education and mentorship by industry leaders.

Femmedineering meetup

In 2022, the company organized meetups for women in Poland, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Brazil attracting top-notch experts from the leading tech companies. The topics covered software testing, career growth, Project Management, Business Analysis, etc.

Femmegineering held a special meetup within Women in Tech Summit, one of the biggest events aimed at ensuring gender balance and attracting over 8,000 attendees.

In 2023 in partnership with Star for Life Ukraine, the company has launched the program Girls in Tech. In terms of the program, 100 girls from different regions of Ukraine studied Python or UX/UI design online with our mentors.

Women are well visible in the company’s community appearance – we have 28 female speakers, which is 45% of the total number, and 10+ gender equality ambassadors, who speak, tell their stories, motivate young girls, etc.

Hanna Abdel Hamid mastercalss

In terms of recognition, we can say that women are not left behind – 177 specialists got promotions in 2023 demonstrating improvement of their skills, from them 37% were women. Also, 39% of new hires in 2023 were female specialists.

It’s important to note that, achieving complete gender parity is an ongoing process that requires continuous commitment and dedication. The landscape may have evolved since my last update, so I recommend checking recent reports and resources to learn about any new developments in this area.

What trends do you see for the following years when it comes to gender equality in tech? What companies should consider to become more balanced?

From my observation of the current state of affairs in the tech industry, in the coming years, I think that gender equality in tech will see these trends:

  • Continued Focus on Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Addressing Equal Pay and Transparency.
  • Embracing Flexible Work Arrangements.
  • Enhancing Skills Development and Mentorship.
  • Promoting Leadership Commitment.
  • Combating Bias with Technology.
  • Collaborating for Change.
  • Elevating Advocacy and Awareness.
  • Supporting Parental Leave and Family Support.
  • Metrics and Accountability.

To become more balanced, companies should set clear diversity goals, provide anti-bias training, support networks, mentorship programs, adapt recruitment strategies, and be transparent about diversity data. Leadership commitment, flexible policies, and continuous learning are key to progress.


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