International Women’s Day marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity and provides worldwide cause to celebrate women’s achievements or rally for women’s equality. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality, celebrate women’s achievements, and do our parts to create an inclusive world.
On this International Women’s Day, we sat down to interview our very own woman CEO, Margery Moore, to discuss the challenges she has faced as a woman in technology, and in particular on the gender-based hurdles she has faced as she turned her personal cause into action through the disruptive AI-enabled company she has built in ehsAI. Join us in getting to know Margery Moore and her journey as a woman CEO.
Q: How did you become involved in technology?
A: That is a long story, so I’ll keep it to the highlights. I went traveling around the world when I was 22, and came back to Canada with a deeper understanding of how the world looks, works, and lives. It was an illuminating experience and left me with two strong feelings – a deep appreciation for having the good fortune to live in Canada and, secondly, a purposeful passion to find a career that could help the environment. What I had witnessed in my global travels made me realize how much work there was to be done. It was a mess out there. This passion is what propelled me to get my BS. and to pursue co-op opportunities in environment and science. I did a stint in Ottawa at the State of the Environment office, and several stints at the Ministry of Environment Pollution Prevention Division in BC. There, I worked with the founders of ISO 14001 and immediately saw the future. If we were to have these management systems to help companies understand how to ‘manage’ their environmental impacts, it was obvious to me that there needed to be technology-based systems, not binders and paper. In 1995, I completed my Masters in Environmental Data Management, a new concept at the time. Upon graduating, I worked at ICF Consulting in their Info Tech division, and then got poached by Bloomberg BNA to create new products and partnerships in this area. Almost 20 years later, in 2017, I again saw an opportunity for technology, to provide the next generation of management of EHS data driven by artificial intelligence. And, well, here we are today!
Q. What drew you to a career in EHSQ?
A: My first foray into EHSQ started with my deep love for the environment. I grew up in Canada, on a golf course in rural Ontario. As an only child, my friends were the animals and birds nearby. My childhood home in Sarnia, Ontario was a mecca for industrial companies, with stacks and plumes, bad smells, and the occasional siren from Chemical Valley floating across the corn fields. Growing up seeing the impact of industry on the world around me, it was when I went to university that I put the pieces together – environmental management technology was the next big thing. In the 1990’s, I was also a certified ISO 14001 auditor and that also gave me a closeup look into the EHSQ world and the lack of consistent management practices, that I knew technology could solve.
Q: In your career, what have you decided to #ChooseToChallenge?
A: Gender parity is always my goal, and that includes transgender people, too. We strive at ehsAI to hire as equitably as possible and that is why we are pretty close to 40% diversity in the workforce. As an AI-based technology company, it’s very difficult to balance the employee gender spectrum as this is a very male-dominated field. To that end, we also strive to hire university and grad students or co-ops, and I am grateful to see more graduating women pursuing careers in STEM. I also volunteer with various organizations and am willingly mentor young women whenever asked. This helps me keep a strong presence in our community and keep the spotlight on eradicating this problem. I lead with emotional intelligence, and at ehsAI, we are keenly focused on the health and well-being of our staff. I try and keep in touch with all staff personally, as well as interview each new candidate to help communicate our company culture. As a woman who has successfully created her own startup, I also personally support other women-led startups, an area near and dear to my heart.
Q: What have been your greatest challenges in being a woman in technology?
A: Hands down, raising funds is one of the greatest challenges in being a woman in tech. As a female CEO running a startup, it’s just a fact that women have to run faster and pitch harder to overcome unconscious biases. A close second is hiring diverse staff, especially in machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP). Underlying all of this, being the primary caregiver to loved ones that were very sick and may not have made it between 2018 and 2020. It is challenging to balance the desire and need to care for, advocate, and be present for aging parents while leading a technology company and launching a market-first EHS compliance AI application the market had never seen. While this is not a challenge certainly unique to women, it often falls solely on women entrepreneurs. I was lucky to have an amazing husband and strong COO, as well as a co-founder and board that had my back every step of the way. But there were tears, buckets and buckets, as I had to make hard choices often – either be there to care for my loved ones, or focus on the product. It meant 60+ hour weeks for years, which have been well worth it! This dream of mine for ehsAI was a burning fire and it kept me going. And that fire has been further ignited with ehsAI being successfully acquired into a Fortune 500 company that is also named on the Fortune Future 50, a ranking of the global companies that show the best prospects for sustained growth. All of these companies demonstrate an impressive combination of strong execution capabilities and forward-looking strategic agility.
Q: What was the key learning from 2020 that you brought with you into 2021?
A: To have faith. The pandemic was a huge shock. Last March and April we had no idea what the next month would hold. But with the grit and perseverance of our employees, the support from our funders and Canadian government, plus the immediate focus on remote digital technologies, we got through. While it served us up uncertainty and new challenges, the pandemic was, in fact, a boost to our business because organizations were experiencing high rates of compliance and regulatory changes throughout and needed a solution to keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape across the globe. The demand for our solution grew, and so did our need for more people. In 2020 alone, we grew our employee count by almost 50%, and we are on track to more than double our headcount by the end of 2021. 2020 was a tough year, but It taught me to remain laser-focused on what is critically important, to prioritize fast, pivot fast, and keep going to stay the course! Again, our networks of friends at NAEM and also our clients and partners were crucial in helping us keep on going and overachieve in a year of adversity.
Q: What advice can you give to other women who aspire to be CEOs?
A: DO NOT GIVE UP! When you are on the floor, literally in shock because the unthinkable just happened (like a pandemic), dig deep, find a way, reach out for help, and remind yourself that you have a vision to achieve. You will do it!