zu Award for Women in Technology and Community Service

zu Award for Women in Technology and Community Service

The start of June was convocation week in Saskatoon. Not only is it a time of celebrations and pride, but of anticipation and excitement. As an employer, we’re looking forward to meeting many of these new professionals as they head into the workforce. 

It won’t come as a surprise that many zu employees attended the University of Saskatchewan, including 56% of our colleagues who are women. Why is this relevant? To contribute to the support of women studying and working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), zu annually sponsors the Award for Women in Technology and Community Service Scholarship, which was launched in 2010. This scholarship supports and recognizes the community service, volunteerism and leadership of women majoring in Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan. 

Last week, U of S Student-Athlete Leah Bohlken was awarded this scholarship

Leah is graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. To gain professional experience, she is working for Garmin in Cochrane, Alberta as a Software Engineer Intern through the Computer Science Professional Internship Program. 

Discovering computer science

“If you would’ve asked me a few years ago what I was going to do after university, a software developer would not have been on my radar. Although I took my first computer science class in my first semester of university, it wasn’t until my fourth year that I decided to make the switch from pursuing a degree in Geophysics to one in Computer Science.

This change was driven by my passion for solving complex problems and desire to work in a team atmosphere, two things I knew a career in software development would provide. 

Playing hockey most of my life taught me how to work on a team, and how important each person’s role is for the success of the team. Software development is very similar – each person has a role and working together is crucial for successful development. What excites me most about a career in software development is getting to be on the cutting edge of technology and working with and learning from everyone I cross paths with in this industry. When I graduate, I would like to find a position that challenges and excites me. A position where I can develop and improve my own skills, learn from others and hopefully one day lead others.“


Getting to know the scholarship winner

Hailing from southern Saskatchewan, Leah attended high school at Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Moose Jaw before moving to the big city of Saskatoon for university. 

Balance was the name of the game during her studies. Leah achieved U Sports Academic All-Canadian status five years in a row, meaning she averaged over 80% while completing a full course load. In 2019, she was named league all-star for the Huskie women’s hockey team and posted an 88.6% average in her studies.

3 fun facts about Leah: 
  • She doesn’t like spaghetti and meat sauce.
  • She skydived and lived to tell the tale.
  • Her favourite TV shows are Ted Lasso and Schitt’s Creek.


Continuing to support women in tech

We couldn’t be more thrilled to support Leah as she graduates and forges her path in the tech space. This scholarship introduces us to so many incredible young professionals and reminds us that career inspiration can happen anywhere—even on skates (in true Canadian fashion). We celebrate students such as Leah who are leaders amongst their peers and demonstrate inclusivity and equality in the discipline of computer science. 

zu honours women in tech every day through our employee gender balance, but we recognize there is still work to do. During our first decade in business, the executive team noticed a distinct disparity in the ratio of women to men amongst Computer Science graduates—the motivation behind this scholarship. From the beginning, we committed to fostering an inclusive workplace here in Saskatoon. 

Though it’s encouraging to see an increasing number of women studying computer science, we know that a scholarship alone doesn’t provide a fix. In 2018, Canadian women made up only ~37.8% of STEM careers compared to men and only 28% in the areas of mathematics and computer and information sciences. The STEM gap is real and we’re working to break down those barriers here in our province.

Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon, Cofounder of STEMettes identifies these as the top barriers to women in STEM:

  • Perception
  • Awareness
  • Networks

As the tech space continues to grow at an exponential rate, there are so many existing and new problems that need solving. We need diversity in experts who bring unique perspectives and specialized talents to work together and collaborate to create innovative solutions.

We challenge everyone in the field of technology to ask “How might we remove barriers and support underrepresented groups of people in building careers as developers and programmers?