By Lisa Thibodeau
Looking back on her nearly 40 years in the tech sector, Sue Dyer recognizes how difficult it can be for women to make a name for themselves in a predominantly male industry.
Dyer got her start in engineering at IBM in the United States in the 1980s before moving to the U.K. for more than a decade to pursue her passion of designing integrated circuits. She eventually moved to Canada to join Ottawa’s tech sector in the early 2000s and has remained in the region ever since. While she loves working in tech, she says it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
“The thing about being a woman and going into engineering is you have to realize there are always going to be people out there that don’t believe you have the capability because you’re a woman,” she says, adding that she has had her share of run-ins with disagreeable bosses and colleagues.
She first noticed the underrepresentation in the industry back when she was pursuing her master’s degree and she was one of three women in a class of 103. She encountered similar imbalances throughout her career at Mitel, Tundra Semiconductor and
Being one of the few women in the workplace never deterred Dyer, but drove her to continue to work hard and exceed expectations – taking on many managerial roles over the years. Rob Hilkes worked alongside Dyer at Tundra and remembers her congenial
approach to managing a team.
“Sue doesn’t have an ego … she’s just very much a team player,” says Hilkes, who worked closely with her on a consortium project where he says her talents were instrumental. “That was an opportunity where you could see her interpersonal skills and leadership skills shine.”
As Dyer approaches her fourth decade in the business and nearly 15th year in her current role as a senior manager at consulting firm PwC, she is encouraged by the number of women who are interested in the STEM industry today and the initiatives workplaces are making to incorporate them.
“I think women are saying, ‘You know what? I can do this,’” says Dyer. “Maybe it’s because people my age are saying, ‘You can do it – persevere and don’t let the naysayers get you down.’”
While Dyer concedes that working in technology is hard work, she credits it with giving her the foundational tools to build a successful career and branch out into new areas.
“There are things that will try to impede you,” she adds. “But you just have to be really focused and dedicated.”