By Vanessa Saw
At EmpowHERto, we aim to help young womxn and girls in becoming their best selves and reach their full potential as leaders. Named amongst the Women’s Executive Network’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada three times (2015, 2017, 2021), Dr. Sarah Saska is certainly a leader to take note of. We had the pleasure of speaking with Sarah, Co-Founder and CEO of Feminuity, a full-service DEI firm, to learn what it means to approach purpose-driven work with good intentions and the importance of building a career with meaningful, long-term impact.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you founded Feminuity? Did you always have an entrepreneurial spirit, or was there a specific moment in your career or life that made you decide to start Feminuity?
Before co-founding Feminuity, I led pioneering doctoral research at the intersection of equity, technology, and innovation. My research highlighted the need for companies in the technology and innovation sector to centre ethical and equitable design, and it became the inspiration for Feminuity. So, in essence, I became an entrepreneur out of necessity. The gaps in some of the technologies and innovations that are intended to make our lives better were just unacceptable to me.
These technologies weren’t inclusive or accessible for some and were actually harmful to others. Common examples include facial recognition software that doesn’t detect racialized people’s faces, natural language processing that doesn’t recognize different dialects, and risk assessment algorithms that disproportionately assign high crime risk scores to Black people.
As an entrepreneur, what does “a day-in-the-life” look like for you?
I begin each day by going on a nice stroll with my dog, Gordon (named after the late Gord Downie). I then catch up on some emails, connect with my team, join a panel discussion, collaborate with some of our awesome partners, vet media requests, join a design session, work on a resource, take a breather for a snack or two, and end the day with some administrative tasks. There’s always a spreadsheet or an Asana board that needs some attention!
How has the increased adoption of remote work or hybrid work models impacted how organizations view their DEI programs?
Well, it’s forcing companies to reexamine their care and flexible work policies and business as usual. I think they’ll find that this hybrid, flexible, digital work is more rewarding for their employees. I think it makes them realize that managers micromanaging employees is not necessary. And it will finally make them see their team members as human beings, not just cogs in a machine. We cannot go back to the culture of yesterday where people could not bring their full selves to work or had to sacrifice so much personally to be a top-performing team member.
Why is DEI especially important for tech companies?
Tech companies must prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion because tech is so powerful in today’s day and age – it infiltrates our lives every single day. We’re at a critical moment in history where technology can either exacerbate existing inequities or make things a heck of a lot better. Many tech companies have more political, economic, and social power than entire countries. They are out-pacing law and policy in ways that have real, tangible effects on equity and human rights issues. If left unchecked, we know that technological and innovative solutions will continue to hide, speed up, and deepen various forms of exclusion, discrimination, and inequity. A small sliver of the population should not be able to determine and design technologies that impact the majority of us; technology will be most powerful when everyone is empowered by it.
What advice do you have for women interested in a career in STEM?
At a fundamental level, it’s a candidate’s market, so be picky! Vet out the organization that you’re considering joining. You’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you. Seeing ourselves reflected in the upper echelons of an organization is critical. One of the biggest challenges to this visibility is the “revolving door problem.” We’ve all heard about the company that scrambles to repair its image or make a change and decides to hire a woman. When women are employed under this guise, they are likely to leave, and often in the first six months. When a company culture wreaks of misogyny and fails to support women to thrive, women will leave (if they’re financially able to).
When women go to companies, they may not tell the company about their experience for fear of burning professional bridges. However, they will let their friends and colleagues know. Over time, the whisper network damages the companies’ reputation, and rightfully so.
Where can we learn more about Feminuity?
Well, we have a newly-refurbished website. We share tons of resources and blogs on there and information about our services, of course. We post a lot on our Instagram page, and we’re on LinkedIn and Twitter, too!
If anyone has any questions or wants to reach out, we’re always available at email@example.com.