A100 partners with software maker REES to tackle harassment in Alberta tech community

Business women in conference room with laptops
REES is setting up a third-party, online incident reporting program to measure and address harassment.

The A100, a support and mentoring organization for Alberta tech founders, is partnering with REES (Respect, Educate, Empower Survivors), a software-development company, to set up a third-party, online incident reporting program.

The new program will be used to report bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination, and will be available 24/7 on the Start Alberta website, which A100 operates.

The program has the support of Platform Calgary, Edmonton Unlimited, the Venture Capital Association of Alberta, and Alberta Enterprise Corporation.

Research has shown that once individuals from underrepresented backgrounds enter the workplace, they are more likely to be faced with exclusion, biases, discrimination and even harassment.

Tamara Woolgar, the executive director of the A100, told BetaKit that the new reporting tool won’t replace existing HR policies or processes within organizations. Rather, it is meant to address incidents that occur at public events or any external-facing initiatives within the ecosystem.

“This idea of creating inclusive spaces in the ecosystem has been top of mind for us for quite a number of years now,” Woolgar said, who noted that REES CEO and founder Mary Lobson is from Manitoba and recently graduated from Creative Destruction Labs Rockies.

“So that was a really nice synergy there,” Woolgar noted. “When we learned about the [REES] platform, it just seemed to align so well with our intention to create a safer place, and more inclusive ecosystem. So I reached out to Mary, and here we are.”

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Generally, Canada has less data on gender-based violence than the United States, according to Lobson.

“That’s part of what we’re trying to address here—not just creating safe pathways for people to come forward, but also to have increased data that can be used to inform prevention efforts,” she pointed out.

That said, a 2022 report issued by the Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association (CVCA) and Diversio, which does diversity, equity and inclusion training, said investment firms might be hiring more diverse teams, but the environment they are creating has yet to become inclusive.

“Diversity on its own is not enough,” the report read. “Research has shown that once individuals from underrepresented backgrounds enter the workplace, they are more likely to be faced with exclusion, biases, discrimination and even harassment, which make success and long-term career growth in the sector difficult.”

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At the partner level in venture capital workplaces, the report found that women are approximately six times more likely “to report harassment in the workplace or feel like their opinions are not heard or valued.”

REES offers a web-based reporting platform where individuals create an account and then answer a series of multiple-choice questions. Once completed, the record can be saved. Individuals have the option to file an anonymous report. Lobson said that will provide people with the opportunity to come forward who otherwise might not have.

It will also enable tha A100 to gain some insights and data about where there might be issues in the ecosystem, across regions, communities and events.

“There can be trends or patterns that can be observed over time,” Lobson said. “That’s what we’re hoping to catch with the initial launch of the platform.”

The platform also contains information about support and resources. Lobson noted that if someone has experienced harm and isn’t certain what to do, or how to access resources, those are now within the Start Alberta platform.

“It’s just a centralized location for reporting and information for anyone within the tech ecosystem across Alberta,” she said.

Lobson launched REES in 2020, originally targeting the higher education market with it. The startup has eight employees and raised a $1-million CAD ($775,000 USD) pre-seed round in 2022.

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Lobson estimates that REES currently has between 30 and 40 customers. REES charges a one-time setup fee and then an annual user fee. Lobson describes REES as an enterprise SaaS company.

Currently, she is carrying out some initial work with an oil and gas company in Alberta, and also developing a partnership with the Alberta Association of Sexual Assault Services.

“There’s a lot of leadership in Alberta on this issue, and we’re really excited for the opportunity to partner with the A100 on this, and the broader tech community,” Lobson said.

She added that this initiative will, “lead something unprecedented really in Canada or anywhere, having a province or a state take a leadership role like this across the entire ecosystem.”

Added Woolgar: “Alberta is the first tech ecosystem in the country to implement this kind of tool, but honestly we’d love to see other ecosystems step up to this as well. It’s such an important issue, and it requires an approach with empathy. So it’s definitely something we want to bring into the public awareness and have more discussions around, and offering a tool like this is a great first step.”

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.

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