PJ Lowe-Silivestru is a serial entrepreneur. She’s also a serial mentor of women entrepreneurs.

She is for a very deliberate reason. Women in tech get treated differently than men.

Young women entrepreneurs gathered with their mentors to learn goal setting strategies at the first Women in Tech Mentorship meetup.

Young women from a variety of tech roles gathered with their mentors to learn goal setting strategies at the first Women in Tech Mentorship meetup (Communitech photo: Phil Froklage).

“I’m the first person that will tell you that I think men and women are equal in so many ways,” says Lowe-Silivestru. “I’m a mother, a sister, a daughter … all these men in my life treat me the same.

“However, I’ve been on the other side. I’ve been a founder, I’ve raised money, sold a company, gone through an acquisition, and it’s sad to say but it is different being a female.”

Which is why Lowe-Silivestru was on hand recently, along with 25 other pairs of mentors and would-be entrepreneurs, at the launch of Communitech’s second Women in Tech Mentorship Program.

The program, supported by TD Lab and NetSuite, brings together young women in tech and experienced tech professionals who are ready to share their winning strategies, and the mistakes they’ve made, all in the name of offering a helping hand to the new kids on the block.

“My co-founder is my husband and he gets treated completely differently than I do,” says Low-Silivestru. “I have lots of stories where we’re in the same room and an investor will walk up to us and treat us completely differently. It’s definitely changing; over the past five years I’ve noticed it, but we still have a long way to go.”

The issue is one that mentorship programs are designed to address. A multidisciplinary meta-analysis of 112 academic research studies suggests that mentorship increases mentees’ confidence to take on higher-responsibility tasks and prepare them for leadership roles.

Kaleah Baker, chief marketing officer at startup BridesMade, chose Lowe-Silivestru to be her mentor and help guide her through the perils of startup life. She’s grateful for the assist.

“Compared to my friends, I’m in a very different stage of life,” says Baker. “A lot of my friends are starting at the bottom of a company and trying to work their way up. I started at the top of a company and am now trying to figure out how to make everything fit. I don’t have a lot of people to turn to to be able to figure that all out.

“Having this mentorship program, [having] access to someone who was in the same position and started at the top level [is so helpful]. I think it’s a very unique position that not a lot of people find themselves in. I want to make the most of that opportunity, and make good decisions that will not only further the company, but my own personal development.”

Under the program, mentors and their protegés get together on a monthly basis and at four formal meetings, including the match-making event.

The mentorship initiative is one of several women-focused programs that Communitech has launched over the past eight months. Others include: The Fierce Founders bootcamp and accelerator, Peer2Peer networking groups (Technical Chats for Women and the Women in Tech Quarterly Breakfast Series), Lean In KW, Ladies Learning Code and a since-closed Skills Development Workshop.

“The numbers aren’t lying,” Danielle Graham, Communitech’s Women in Tech Program Program Manager told the mentorship participants. “There aren’t many women in tech.

“We want to help you.”

About The Author

Phil Froklage
Digital Journalist/Multimedia Producer

Phil Froklage is a writer, filmmaker and journalist in Waterloo Region obsessed with the future. Passionate about science and technology — and how it shapes our world — Phil likes nothing more than being surprised by the amazing things human beings can do.