How women in tech need to be seen and heard.
Marianna Speranza knows you are well aware of the revolutionary impact Steve Jobs and Bill Gates made on our lives. As much as she respects these innovators, she also wants to make sure you know about women who are rocking the tech world (and, thus, the whole world).
She points to Melanie Perkins, CEO and co-founder of Canva, a software startup now worth $26 billion, and engineer and mathematician Radia Perlman, often referred to as the “mother of the Internet.”
“And there are so many more I could tell you about, but there’s no representation of them,” says Marianna, who’s in her second year of Computer Science and Business Administration at Western’s Ivey Business School.
But Marianna, 19, is doing something about that lack of representation. In fact, she’s been on the case since early high school. A tech buff from a young age, she got her formal introduction to computer science in grade 10 when she had to code a video game.
“I wanted to really push myself to see how far I could go with coding. But it was hard because I was the only girl in my class. That inspired me to start my own tech club for girls.”
She continued with her tech focus – and emphasis on connecting with other girls in tech – through the rest of high school. Her academic achievements, tech skills and entrepreneurial spirit won her an $80,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship to attend university. And her drive to advocate for women in STEM kept going from there.
In 2020, as the pandemic began to grip the world, Marianna and her sister Stacey decided to take a big step forward in helping women network in the tech sector with the launch of a podcast. Over the past three years, The Business Casual podcast has featured interviews with more than 50 women – “trailblazers,” as Marianna calls them – from a broad array of sectors.
“In high school, Stacey and I were reaching out to leaders in business so we could learn and build a network. We would have coffee chats and email exchanges. All those conversations were thought-provoking and insightful, and we thought they would also be helpful to other women.”
Today, the podcast is an official hit, with 18,000 downloads from listeners in more than 62 countries.
Marianna continues to be inspired by the women she’s connected with, especially her grandmother, who immigrated to Canada from Greece in the 1950s.
“She had a third-grade level education. She didn’t speak English, but she persevered and was open to learning. She instilled her values of education, community and giving back in me. She doesn’t understand computer science, but she’s had a huge, positive impact on me.”
And Marianna believes this notion of inspiring and helping each other is essential for all women.
“Being in tech, I think you have a duty that’s more than just coding a project. You must use your work to ignite change for thousands of women. That goes beyond your software and your company.”