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The latest candidate in our series of Q&As with influential women in the technology business in Canada is Swati Matta, Founder & CEO, Koble, a digital health app for expecting and new parents.
Name: Swati Matta
Job Title: Founder & CEO, Koble
Years in the Industry: 13 Years
The Quote That Most Inspires You: “One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” (- Jacinda Ardern)
(Note from Swati: When we refer to women here, we are speaking to women or people who identify as women.)
What drew you to a career in the consumer and/or business technology industry?
Attending the University of Waterloo and completing their co-op program gave me crucial hands-on experience in technology early on in my career. My education helped me realize the impact that technology can have on improving access to healthcare and therefore patient outcomes. I am so grateful for the education I received at University of Waterloo; I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without it!
Have you encountered any roadblocks along the way that were related to your gender?
I wouldn’t say that I have encountered roadblocks along the way. However, I think as a gender, women are generally underestimated, specifically when it comes to our understanding of technology. I specifically found this to be true early in my career when I was starting up as a software developer. Most people are quite shocked when they learn that I graduated with a computer science degree from Waterloo. I used to share this in passing just so they’d start taking me seriously!
What unique characteristics or perspective do you feel you bring to your organization as a woman?
As a woman who has worked in the HealthTech industry for over 16 years, I understand firsthand how hard it can be to plan for and grow your family while pursuing your career. Building a career is an emerging industry like HealthTech is no easy feat – it takes time, ambition, and sacrifices when it comes to spending time with your family. Pursuing your career can be especially challenging for new caregivers who are navigating parenthood for the first time.
This is exactly why I started Koble. At Koble, we’ve made a point to support the entire family unit, not just the birthing person. By doing that, we’re encouraging a more equitable approach to building a family.
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 to attract more women, particularly into high-level positions?
The technology industry needs more female representation; we need to get more women to explore and build their skills in the technology sector as early as possible. We need more women enrolling in STEM programs in universities so that more women have a seat at the table. At Koble, I am doing my part and I am committed to hiring more women leaders on our team.
The technology industry also needs more investment in women founders and women-led companies. Recent studies have found that women-led startups only receive 2% of venture capital funding. This percentage is even lower for all women teams or BIPOC founders. More funding will not only allow start-ups to grow, it will also empower more women to bring bright new business ideas, and found new companies, in the industry.
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?
Being a woman in a male dominated industry comes down to one thing – we approach leadership differently. In particular, there have been several studies that claim women are better problem solvers than men. During the pandemic, this was certainly proven, with reports indicating that women are better leaders during a crisis, even coining the phrase “the glass cliff.” The glass cliff describes the idea that when a company is in trouble, a female leader is put in charge to save it.
There are many reasons why women may be deemed better problem solvers: women are communicators, collaborators, and ultimately prioritize relationship building. Ultimately, women are empathetic and understand the emotions that their team may be feeling in a crisis.
Women make excellent leaders and seeing more women in leadership roles in the tech industry will only impact the industry for the better.
Are there other women in the tech industry who inspire you?
Yes – Kate Ryder, the CEO of Maven Clinic, inspires me! Kate is a mom and is dedicated to improving health outcomes for women. Maven just became the first U.S. unicorn dedicated to women’s and family health. I would love to build Koble to be a unicorn one day, just like Kate has grown Maven to be an incredible company to watch in the HealthTech industry.
What are some of the misconceptions/myths about women working in the technology space that you’d like to dispel?
The biggest misconception is that women don’t have the technical or product background to build tech companies. Women do have the technical background to build companies – myself included! In fact, the technology industry, and its largest players, will continue to close the gender gap in the year ahead. Deloitte Global predicts that large global technology firms, on average, will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforces in 2022. The proportion of women in technical roles will also increase as well.
I am proud of the technical experience that I bring to my role at Koble; it is so important to embrace the technical education you have, and I encourage other women to do the same!
What’s one thing you wish was done differently in the industry, and why?
I wish we could have more women at the table when making product decisions. By doing so, we’d be able to build product experiences that are exponentially better. As mentioned earlier, women are empathetic in nature, and this trait is incredibly valuable when building a product, or experience, for customers. Empathy is key to building an experience – it allows you to understand what a customer needs, what challenges they may face, and how you can provide a solution to that problem.
It is a disservice to not have that perspective at a decision making table. Women have so much value to provide to the tech industry and having women as a key player at the table will only lead to better outcomes for customers, companies, and the market as a whole.
Are you optimistic for the future in general and for the industry?
Yes, absolutely! We have made so much progress in the industry already. Women are continuing to create and lead tech companies that are making meaningful changes. In the future, I know we’ll see more women entrepreneurs and CEOs, which will ultimately lead to more impact, and more profitable companies.