Women in Tech: Q&A With Paula Hodgins, President, HPE Canada

By WiFi HiFi

The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Paula Hodgins, President, HPE Canada

Name: Paula Hodgins 

Job Title: President, HPE Canada

Years in the Industry: 25

The Quote That Most Inspires You: The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?

When I started out in tech, it was an emerging industry full of intrigue and on the cusp of exploding into what we know it as today. The fact that I didn’t have a technology background wasn’t a problem as I was able to hone my skills as I worked. The industry was rapidly changing and was full of opportunity, making it appealing for new graduates like myself [who were] looking to be involved in an exciting and emerging sector. 

Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?

There is a built-in gender bias that I’ve been subject to throughout my career, experienced even as I have changed roles and companies. When I was junior, this bias often caused me to second guess my decisions. However, I am fortunate to have supportive colleagues, mentors, and family to use as sounding boards until I found my own voice within the industry. My support system taught me to focus on my strengths, to see what I bring to the table and to build confidence in my abilities.

What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?

I have found other women in the industry to be my most valuable resource. Learning about their challenges and solutions has helped shape my outlook and has inspired me to become a mentor to the next generation of women in the sector. 

So now, I draw on my varied experience to help increase confidence, share learnings, show support, and offer advice to women who are embarking on their technology careers. I feel it’s important to listen to our female employees, understand the issues that they are facing, and adapt to use those experiences to modify our changing environment. 

Technology is historically a male-dominated industry, yet the use of tech is fully embraced by women, and many studies even suggest that females are the primary buyers of tech in the home. What do you feel the technology industry needs in order to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?

I love to see companies set objectives to improve their approach to female inclusion and opportunity, and then implement them into policy and practice. By establishing measurable goals around flexible working or promotion criteria, and by reviewing job descriptions and implementing diverse hiring panels, we are able to educate our teams on best practice, evaluate results, and improve processes. This not only sets the stage for fair opportunity but makes it more appealing for women to apply for these roles. 

If you had to sum up what it is like being a woman in this male-dominated technology industry in just a few words, what would you say?

It can be extremely challenging for women in the technology industry, but we are making progress. We’re slowly starting to see more women hired and promoted into senior positions, but we need women as collaborators in junior roles, too. By knowing our strengths and embracing what differentiates us, we’re able to contribute to the conversation in a positive way. 

Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you? 

There are many women within the industry who I look up to and admire. Their openness about the hurdles that they have faced has helped me to shape my path. However, the people who have had the most impact on me personally are the female leaders whom I have worked for and learned from. These women have spoken candidly about their challenges, advised on how they have overcome them, and offered support and counsel. This is why it is vital that we continue to attract and promote women in tech. 

What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?

There can be a perception that women are not as technically minded or capable as men, which is of course, wholly untrue. Women can also be held to a double standard and are required to show more evidence of competence and our judgement is anecdotally questioned more than male counterparts. As we continue to educate the industry on the challenges that are faced and the contributions that are made, the full capability of women in tech will hopefully be realized.

What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?

In the early days of my career, I wish that I had been more outspoken about the challenges that I was facing. I was focused on finding a solution on my own and didn’t realize that there were other women in the same position trying to overcome the same hurdles. Perhaps if I had spoken up earlier about my experience and about what is acceptable, we could have sparked change at a quicker pace. 

Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?

Absolutely yes. There is no doubt more work to do but we’re seeing work culture change. Over the last few years, I’ve seen significant changes which include companies being more open, inclusive, and honest about the challenges they are facing. As we educate the workforce on the unique challenges that women face, we’re ensuring that everyone is a part of the solution. This isn’t just a female issue, it’s an everyone issue.