Women Talk Tech Episode 15: Building a More Inclusive Tech Sector in the “MeToo” Era

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Available on iTunes, Spotify and Google Play Music.

On this week’s Women Talk Tech podcast, we talk to Jane Watson, Founder of the Aperta Project and Toronto-based HR professional. Jane has heard a ton of stories about sexual harassment in the workplace over the years and this lead her to want to do more research on the topic so Jane began to write and connect with people who understood the importance of taking a different approach to this topic. She has spoken to hundreds of people in the last two years and believes the time has come to dive deeper into solutions with respect to recording and handling sexual harassment, especially in the tech sector.

To address the issue of sexual harassment in a new way, Jane started the Aperta Project and is now collaborating with the Cynefin Centre to collect first-person experiences with sexual harassment in Toronto Tech.

In both Canada and the US, about 70 percent of workplace sexual harassment goes unreported. Toronto boasts a fast-growing tech sector and an incredibly diverse population. Since research shows that sexual harassment disproportionately impacts women and we need and want more females in Toronto tech, we must find ways to make the industry and our organizations safer for everyone.

Tech companies in general move quickly and things are far less “in place” than other industries. There’s definitely a challenge when solutions to these issues are about altering recruiting practices, developing mentorship and sponsorship programs and creating cultures that are inclusive. These things take time and patience, something tech companies often don’t have. When tech companies are just trying to survive and get to the next step, best practices can go out the window. Jane believes the tech sector as a whole, needs to be more proactive about addressing these topics and specifically work to eradicate sexual harassment in the workplace.

Despite the media attention that workplace sexual harassment has received in the last two years, organizations haven’t figured out how to address this issue. Sexual harassment continues to be a pervasive and under-reported problem, despite the proliferation of policies, training, and women-focused workplace initiatives. I think this betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem we claim we want to solve.

The Aperta project needs our help.

In order to bring as much awareness to this issue as possible, Jane is asking our audience to consider being part of the research study. If you or someone you know has had an experience with sexual harassment in the workplace, please reach out to Jane and share the experience anonymously as part of this study.

  • Complete the study yourself if you have a story to share: https://www.theapertaproject.com/study
  • Share the link to complete the Toronto Tech Study via email with your friends, colleagues, and industry contacts in Toronto tech: http://bit.ly/TOTechStudy
  • Share the Toronto Tech Study on Twitter or LinkedIn and encourage your followers or connections to participate
  • Follow @ApertaProject on Twitter and retweet our calls to action. We’re also sharing FAQs.
  • Have an idea to help spread the word or an introduction you think would be helpful? Get in touch with Jane via email at: janewatsonCHRP@gmail.com

The study closes August 31, 2019. The Toronto tech sector has a unique opportunity to build a more inclusive and competitive tech sector that reflects and capitalizes on the diversity in Toronto.


Jane has spent 15 years supporting leaders and employees in start-ups, non-profit, and private companies. Jane has been writing about people, organizations, culture, and the future of work on her blog Talent Vanguard since 2012. In 2018, she founded The Aperta Project, an initiative aimed at helping organizations rethink sexual harassment. She’s currently collaborating with the Cynefin Centre on a study of sexual harassment in the Toronto tech sector. The data and stories collected will be brought to a convened working group of diverse tech ecosystem stakeholders to understand how sexual harassment is experienced by those in Toronto tech, and to then co-design more effective strategies to address it. Do you have an experience to share, or know someone that does? Contribute to this project today. You can follow Jane on LinkedIn and Twitter and you can stay up to date with The Aperta Project on Twitter.


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