Established in 2005, CanWIT is a division of the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATAAlliance). CATA is a National non-profit trade association, based in Ottawa, that advocates for its member Canadian technology companies. CanWIT was formerly known as CATA WIT Forum.
CanWIT is led by its CEO and Chair, and Executive Director. As National organization, CanWIT consists of a National Advisory Council, and active regional Chapters, each with their own Executive Committee. There are active chapters in BC (Vancouver), Toronto, Waterloo, and Atlantic Canada. A Calgary Chapter is set to launch in February of 2013.
How did CanWIT begin?
In 2004, CATA and Springboard, a U.S. non-profit organization for women entrepreneurs, held a workshop in Ottawa about women entrepreneurs raising equity capital. Joanne Stanley, VP for marketing at CATA, and Debi Rosati, CEO RosatiNet, attended this workshop. As Joanne and Debi like to say,
“We were having a coffee after the Springboard event and we got to talking, as two gals over a coffee will. We had both worked our entire careers in technology and routinely been the only woman at the boardroom table.”
We talked about the need for a Canadian organization to help women in tech advance their careers and start companies. And that’s how and where CATA WIT Forum was conceived.
This Ottawa group became the founding members of CanWIT. They looked at other existing women’s organizations and confirmed there was indeed a gap to fill. The founding members finalized plans and prepared a mandate and mission statement.
By April 2005 the formation of the CATA WIT National Advisory Council was announced, with Debi Rosati as National Chair, and Joanne Stanley as Executive Director.
The first task of the organization was to establish a community network. The first Chapter was created in Ottawa. A team of local Ottawa women in tech (and one man) planned and formed the group, which was launched in the Fall of 2005.
Almost immediately the new Ottawa Chapter, partnering with the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI), organized and held a series of well-attended Lunch and Learn sessions for women in tech.
CATA WIT generated interest outside of Ottawa, and was contacted by several tech women from Toronto. In early 2006, CanWIT responded to these women, who included Dr. Ilse Treurnitch CEO, MaRs Discovery Centre and Dr. Cindy Gordon, CEO, Helix Commerce Int’l. Together they planned and called a meeting, inviting all interested Toronto women in tech. The result was that by the summer of 2006, the Toronto Chapter of CATA WIT had been launched.
A Montreal chapter was launched in 2007 and 2008 heralded the establishment of an energetic BC Chapter in Vancouver. With this launch, CATA WIT became a truly national Canadian organization, and to reflect that accomplishment, CATA WIT changed its name and logo to Canadian Women in Technology, CanWIT, a division of CATAAlliance.
The Waterloo chapter of CanWIT launched in June 2011 with a huge event of 150 enthusiastic women and men. And in November 2011, the Atlantic Canada chapter of CanWIT had its launch event at the NRC New Brunswick Innovation Forum in Fredericton.
In May 2012 Dr. Catherine Aczel Boivie became CEO and Chair of CanWIT, and Emily Boucher, its Executive Director. As part of broadening CanWIT’s mandate, new opportunities were provided to the membership. Partnerships were finalized with U.S.-based Springboard Enterprises and Startup Canada to assist in fostering CanWIT's commitment to mentorship, entrepreneurship for women-led tech companies, and innovation.
All Star members of a new CanWIT Advisory Council were announced in August 2012.We send a special thanks to all founding members and ambassadors for articulating our vision/mission and framework to build CanWIT, a Division of CATAAlliance.