Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Moment Behind The Movement: Jodi Kovitz & #movethedial

Jodi Kovitz FEATURE Photo

I never, ever would have had the opportunity to go on that trip but for my male friend taking two minutes to move the dial for me.”

The enormity and power of social movement often isn’t fully realized until we’re right in the middle of it, at its climax, or when revisiting its value in current context. Yet, there may come a time where, in the moment, you put can your finger on a shift in our social evolution.

While the pursuit of the advancement of women in our society isn’t strictly a modern undertaking, there’s been a renewed focus with the evolution of business – extensively in the innovation and tech space – where the quest for gender parity continues.

#movethedial is a relatively new movement, growing in momentum and focused on creating solutions for leadership diversity in tech. #movethedial’s mission is to bring great people, minds, ideas and opportunities together to build connections that promote benefits for women tech leaders, the tech sector and the economy.

The #movethedial movement kicked off in January 2017 in Toronto and is spearheaded by Jodi Kovitz, Chief Executive Officer atAceTech Ontario. In understanding how the idea of #movethedial was conceptualized, you need to delve into Kovitz’s uniquely captivating personal and professional journey.

When I was 16, I actually made greeting cards by hand and sold them in little shops. And that is what got me into Ivey (Business School, Western University). I had this little business, I had no profits, but I had lots of great relationships with the store owners and that’s how I got my cards into the shops.

Frankly that tiny principle even from then, when I was 16, of really building impactful, meaningful, authentic relationships is what really drives my work, really all that I do.”

Kovitz also tried her hand at social impact projects while at Ivey.

I created my first social impact project when I was at Ivey. It was an investment challenge. And why that is relevant to now is because it was then quite innovative. It was when the internet was new and was to raise money for an awareness for multiple sclerosis, which wasn’t being done at that time. As well as to create awareness and education around investing.

So that concept of giving people the opportunity to direct their passion and purpose towards a common goal is a huge piece of what drives my work. As well as, what came next in my career is the result of that passion for me.”

What came next was taking the job leading AceTech Ontario. AceTech Ontario is a non-profit for technology leaders which facilitates conversations that create value. Members have the opportunity to be among a community of leading professionals in their specific field of business.

I joined AceTech last September (2016). And, I had something that I call a move the dial moment” very soon after I joined that changed my entire life,” explains Kovitz.

I went to my first AceTech dinner, and I looked around the room and I saw three women. That was the first seeds of #movethedial because these are scaling tech companies and with a revenue minimum.”

Kovitz asserts that while we are starting to see an increasing number of female founders in starting companies in Canada, it is still definitely a challenge.

It was during a trade commission trip in Israel that Kovitz had, what she says, the big move the dial moment” — the particular moment she says demonstrates the power of relationship-building and developing real career sponsors.

The “#movethedial Moment”

Left to Right: Kathryn Hume, VP Product & Strategy, Inte​grate​.ai, Candice Faktor, Founder & Managing Director, Faktory Ventures, Janet Bannister, General Partner, Real Ventures, Jodi Kovitz, Founder, #movethedial, Eva Lau, Managing Partner and Co-founder, Two Small Fish Ventures, Danielle Graham, Program Manager, Ontario Centres of Excellence (at the #movethedial Stories event at YouTube Canada on October 24th 2017)

Kovitz says it’s magnificent how long those relationships last and the impact that they can have.

There were about 60 people that were considered; major tech leaders, CEOs, founders as well as these influencers and investors. And I never, ever would have had the opportunity to go on that trip but for my male friend Jared Tessis, Head of Talent, Klass Capital, taking two minutes to move the dial for me.

And he said, You don’t know Jodi because she’s been in law for 16 years, out of tech, but she’s one in a billion and you’ve got to take her because it will be worth your while. Trust me.’ And that trust, based on the relationship capital he had, is what gave me the chance.”

Kovitz says that seizing the full potential of an opportunity requires the personal commitment to do your own work.

I could have gone on the trip and done nothing, or I could go on the trip and choose to make something of it and do something. And I chose to do something.”

While in Israel, Kovitz developed one of the key philosophies of #movethedial which is to tear down walls and build bridges between organizations and be collectively stronger together.

On the trip, I made life-changing relationships with everybody who essentially were running the ecosystem at the time, including talking with all the leaders of the ecosystem about much better partnering and collaborating on initiatives, because they really had not done that well before.”

While planning an event for a group of women looking for funding in North America, Kovitz discovered an overwhelming desire from the ecosystem to collaborate and change how the ecosystem approaches diversity.

I told them, When you come here, I promise you I can get you 30 people in the room at my brother’s office, Wealthsimple. I can’t promise you more.’ I sent out the invitation and we had 1,000 people registered in a week. And we had to move the venue to MaRS — it was amazing. That was really a call to action for me to start a movement.

We as an ecosystem want to do something together, we want to unite our efforts, we are hungry and palpable. And, it’s BS — that there’s not as many women as there should be in leadership roles in tech and innovation. As well, with respect to females in VC period and with female founders getting funded. We can change that.”

There’s a number of different ways that movethedial is trying to, well, move the dial. BDC, MaRS, PwC, Brookfield and CVCA have collaborated to develop the first movethedial Benchmark Report which will help set the baseline for gender diversity in the ecosystem.

The #movethedial movement now includes regular events including #movethedial Stories and #movethedial pitch events, which are making actionable change in funding female founders. To learn how you can sponsor, mentor and/​or volunteer, contact #movethedial here.

As an active participant, partner and supporter of #movethedial, the CVCA encourages investors to share their own “#movethedial Moment” with us — whether it’s a particular moment that changed your own career path, or a particular moment where you changed someone else’s. Simply connect with us by emailing our editorial department.