Vidyard CEO says he wants to change 'bro' culture in tech industry

Michael Litt, CEO of Kitchener-based Vidyard, says he is working to create a more inclusive culture after he "accidentally built a brogrammer culture."

A new report says women represent only one quarter of high-tech workforce in Canada

'Brogrammer' culture is common in the tech industry. Vidyard CEO Michael Litt says they've recognized it in his company and now they're making changes for female employees. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The CEO of a Kitchener-based technology company says he is working to create a more inclusive culture after he "accidentally built a brogrammer culture."

Michael Litt is CEO of Vidyard, a company he said unintentionally became a predominantly male work place. He recently wrote a column about called: I Accidentally Built A Brogrammer Culture. Now We're Undoing It.

"I think when you start a business like Vidyard, you have to grow the company as fast as humanly possible because you are competing on a global landscape," Litt told Craig Norris of CBC K-W's The Morning Edition on Monday.

"When you do that you essentially build the company with the most available talent that you have and being that we were white men coming out of University of Waterloo, that tended to be the people that we knew and how we built the organization."

Women represent one quarter of tech workforce

Litt said the realization that they were a predominately white male organization happened slowly as the company grew.

"Our first realization was that we had parents inside of the business, people with children who wouldn't necessarily appreciate our perspectives around work hard, play hard where play hard meant drinking beer, playing ping pong, playing foosball — all those predominantly male related things," he said.

"We realized that our customer base is incredibly diverse and therefore our team should represent our customer base."

Litt said the company did a representation analysis across a number of their teams to understand the demographic breakdown, and that's when they realized they had a significant gap in female representation. 

Vidyard is not alone. CBC News technology columnist Ramona Pringle wrote about a new report that shows the uphill battle women in the tech industry face.

The report, produced by the Ottawa-based Information and Communications Technology Council, with support from Microsoft, said women represent only a quarter of the ICT workforce, even though they represent half of the overall Canadian workforce.​

'Not a good enough excuse'

Litt said there are systemic pipeline challenges in the tech industry, but claims it is not a good enough excuse to have such a lack of diversity.

"We have to evaluate our biases and our biases, I think, are what draw a lot of those challenges in the talent pipeline," he said about the "globally known" fact that there are more men than women in tech programs.

"If we as organizations today can address our biases now we change the way the media communicates, we can change the way Hollywood communicates and we can make technology, engineering, math, sciences, even certain areas of the arts that are beneficial for tech companies, more attractive to both genders and fix that pipeline challenge."

Michael Litt is the CEO of Vidyard. (Vidyard)

Litt said without examples of women in leadership roles it's very difficult for women to see themselves in positions of power. 

He used an example of Hollywood films to illustrate the lack of females in leadership roles.

"My wife and I were watching a Hollywood classic — Independence Day — and we recognized very early on in the movie all of the predominately lead roles in that movie were men," he said. 

"I saw myself in male leadership roles, but my wife couldn't find herself."

Reversing bro culture

Litt said in light of Vidyard's realizations, the company has put a number of new policies and initiatives in place.

One initiative is a group called MyYard, which is a diversity and inclusion committee who examine the company and help build inclusive policies and events.

Another thing Litt said he did was look at policies that directly impact women.

"[We] looked at a lot of our policies, things like maternity leave that were designed by a group of men sitting in a room without any real context of what it meant to physically carry and have a baby, which is insane when you think about it," he said.

"So we talked to a number of female employees and tried to understand the way the policies should work to better benefit them."

But, most importantly, Litt said they are working to build a talent pipeline that includes women.

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