The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Stacey McDowall, Head of Brand and Marketing at Kidoz, a COPPA and GDPR compliant, Google and Apple certified contextual mobile advertising network that safely reaches hundreds of millions of kids, teens, and families every month.
Name: Stacey McDowall
Job Title: Head of Brand and Marketing, Kidoz
Years in the Industry: I have been in digital media for almost 20 years
The Quote That Most Inspires You: I am not one for inspirational quotes, but I do love music. I find music to be one of the most inspiring aspects of my day-to-day. Since I can remember, it is music that has been the best motivator in just about any circumstance. If I had to choose a meaningful song, it would be “Enjoy the Silence” by Depeche Mode. This song has been such an important part of my life for over 30 years. It’s just as emotive for me now as it was when I first heard it way back in 1990! I am a very busy-brained person, and it reminds me to pause, take a breath, and just be in the moment.
What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?
I started out in the Canadian TV industry and was fortunate enough to move on to a team that started the “interactive department” before anyone even knew to call it digital media. I had a fantastic mentor at the time, which was the beginning of my now 20-year career in this sector.
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
Absolutely. Working in tech, I have been the only woman on a team more times than I can count, and that often comes with certain stereotypical perceptions. By default, I was often relegated to the note taker or event planner simply because I was a woman. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy aspects of those duties, and I am good at both. But it was the ‘by default’ nature of my being the lone woman on the team of men, that I was assigned those roles time and time again. This prevented me from being taken seriously on certain strategic decisions, and I had to fight very hard to be heard.
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
I am a culmination of my experiences, and they are unique to me. I think in areas where I am still the minority, I can bring a different perspective to the team and the decisions that we make. I am a proponent of diverse voices and experiences on teams and feel this can only help a team and business succeed in the long run.
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 can’t stress mentorship and visibility opportunities enough. I had a very influential mentor early on in my career, and it propelled me to stay in and commit to the tech field as a whole and allowed me to feel supported in a way I hadn’t before.
In terms of visibility, I remember seeing other women and non-binary people in tech at conferences or events when I was first starting out and thinking these people are laying the groundwork for the next generation. Seeing and hearing first-hand accounts of them succeeding, thriving, and leading are critical aspects of what the industry still needs to continue to push forward. Giving space to other voices is more important than ever.
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?
Buckle up! It is a wild ride, filled with incredible highs and some gut-wrenching lows. Knowing your worth is critical to staying the course. Even when I questioned if I should switch industries completely, I knew deep down that I not only had the stamina to stick it out, but I also knew I wanted to forge ahead and take up space where women and other non-binary folks were not traditionally seen or even heard. I love a good challenge.
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
So many! I am very fortunate to have a close circle of friends who also work in tech, and we rely on one another daily for guidance, support, bouncing ideas around, and even just taking the time to laugh. These are the folks that inspire me, as I see their struggles and successes and get to experience them together… all the ups and downs. Having these connections is what I find most inspiring.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
Women in tech are sometimes viewed as tokens. Although the tech industry can appear to be male-dominated, I believe that most men in tech are not intentionally excluding women, day-to-day. Lack of awareness of the challenges faced by women and how to address them are a big part of the challenge. There is a lot of good work happening right now to improve the ‘tokenism’ of women in tech, of which we can hopefully start to see real change in the near future. I believe that things like inclusive language, diverse hiring practices, flexible working opportunities, and continued emphasis on visibility are making positive impacts on women and non-binary folks in tech, for people of all levels and backgrounds.
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
I wish that the notion of gender was not so rigid and dated. Boys/girls, women/men, moms/dads. I think there is a successful way to encompass a more fluid understanding of gender in advertising, and that the old, inflexible narrative of strict gender binary targeting will one day be a thing of the past. There are many brands that are at the forefront of this change, and I am hoping that this isn’t just a trend but a different way of doing business as the world changes and progresses. You can see that Gen Alpha and the younger Gen Z cohorts are challenging and shrugging off traditional western ideas on gender. This gives me a lot of hope but there is still a massive amount of work to be done to get there.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
I am at heart an optimist. In life and in business, so yes absolutely. I think as we see and hear more and more diversity in the advertising industry, we will slowly see a shift in perspective. Like a lot of industries, the trend of “bigger is better” will see that a lot of swift little businesses can outmaneuver the big fish in the pond. It’s getting more and more difficult for mega-corps to enact change quickly and competently to meet market demands, and companies like Kidoz will maintain and grow their market share by being able to adjust and pivot based on the needs of their customers and the industry at large. I am excited to see where we will be in the next five years!