Jasmin Ganie-Hobbs: Championing Early Exposure to STEM, Female Talent, and Trailblazers
A steadfast champion for both the technology industry and women entrepreneurs, Jasmin Ganie-Hobbs talks about the importance of exposing our children – especially our girls – to STEM early and often. Despite not having early exposure herself, she grew to love the tech space and is now dedicated to making it accessible to all women – one open door at a time.
You weren’t surrounded by tech growing up. Tell us more.
I grew up with no exposure to technology at all. My first degree was in political science – I was thinking of becoming a lawyer. I literally had no interest in tech because I didn’t know anything about it. That’s what’s so amazing about #movethedial – it’s helping to make technology that much more accessible to a larger number of individuals and groups.
How did your career in tech evolve?
I started working in sales for a tech company. My role was to bring in business, and eventually I got deeper and deeper into the technical aspects. Once I gained exposure, that's when I became more and more interested. I’ve been on the financial side of the tech business for over a decade. There are relatively few women in the industry – it’s growing, but the numbers are still small.
You have a daughter that inspires you. Tell us more.
My daughter is one of four girls (out of a few hundred) in a Nuclear Engineer program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. It’s one of two programs in the country like it.
People can’t be interested in things they are not exposed to. So, unlike my own upbringing, and perhaps because of what I now I see I missed, I brought my daughter up with focus on math and sciences.
While other parents were signing their girls up for ballet, I chose STEM. Nothing against ballet of course, it simply wasn’t where my daughter or I were drawn or the choice I wanted to make as a parent.
She took to it and has pursued STEM in various ways including coding, participating in her school’s robotics club, and mentoring other kids with an interest in STEM. Even if she had a natural inclination towards STEM, if I didn't expose her to it early on and often, and she was only exposed in her teens for example, it would have taken her much longer to absorb the information and excel.
As a Nuclear Engineer, she will have so many options and opportunities as she pursues a career. The world would be a different place for her if I made different choices early on.
You are a #movethedial champion. How and why did you get involved?
I met Jodi when she was the CEO of Peerscale (then AceTech Ontario). As part of my role as a Director Tech Finance at the Business Development Bank of Canada, I am a member of the Peerscale community. It didn’t take long to notice the discrepancy between the number of women versus the number of men at tech events.
I’m proud to lend my voice to #movethedial and this important movement. From all my years in the industry, I’ve definitely seen the effects that a low number of women has on other women looking for role models. When you don’t see other people who look like you, it can certainly be discouraging.
Being a champion means speaking at events, promoting other women, working with and mentoring female leaders in tech, funding female-led companies, and so much more. It’s a multi-pronged approach within an ecosystem that needs to ensure women are heard, are at the table, and are given the same opportunities as men to advance their careers and grow their ventures.
While there are many initiatives with the same goal in mind, #movethedial is the first large scale coordinated effort for women in tech that is bringing everything together in such a cohesive way… to drive forward this important mission. The breadth and depth of #movethedial is what sets it apart and is so critical for the future.
How have you personally moved the dial for others?
I look for women entrepreneurs and finance their companies. After all, money is like fuel, and without money, there is no gas in the tank to do anything.
I have helped co-create #movethedial-BDC events and I have worked with a number of female tech entrepreneurs. I specifically hold events to bring them together over cocktails, networking events, and at tailor-made events.
One woman I worked with was very hesitant to take on debt. I worked with her over the course of several years and encouraged her that debt would be a good thing, and would give her ability to hire more people. For a year, I mentored and coached her, and helped her prepare to take on debt. Ultimately, the company was funded and she was able to grow her business by bringing on new talent.
I also encouraged her to participate in a speaking circuit to promote her business. Once a shy, reserved woman, she has now taken her company globally and travels and speaks all over the world. She had the skills and the knowledge – but she needed that push and support. And she needed to hear it from another woman in the industry. Amazingly, no one else had ever told her specifically what she needed to do. She was keeping her head down working, but no one was telling her about the strategic pieces she needed to put in place to grow her business. I saw what all the guys were doing and told her to implement them for herself, for her business. I work with an entire portfolio of tech companies and see what they do and I wanted to make sure she didn’t fall behind or hold back due to lack of confidence or guidance.
Has someone moved the dial for you? What does that mean to you?
Early in my career, there were very few women in the industry. Now, there's a totally new tribe that is coming up – women who get it, who understand not having the support, and realize we will all rise up further and faster together.
Now I can call so many women for support – business questions, technology questions, anything. We open doors for each other all the time, such as nominating each other for speaking engagement, providing references, and so much more. I have several groups I meet with including powerful women in tech on various boards. With one group, we get together once a month for dinner to talk about our work, offer suggestions – it’s an amazing community and we all see and experience the power of moving the dial firsthand.
I see how men network – they do it very well and they pull each other up. I say, and #movethedial says… let's do the same thing!
How do you personally live the principles and philosophy of #movethedial?
It’s something I think of every day. Everywhere I can, I open that door for someone else – when we make those introductions or make those calls…there's a ripple effect. We open one door, someone else opens a door for us later on. It keeps going and going and it's a virtuous circle.
Guest writer: Jori Lichtman