International Women’s Day Special Series (02)
Written by Deborah Jesus
In March we celebrate International Women’s Day and observe Women’s History Month. Now is the time to recognize women’s achievements over the years and continue to #pressforprogress. When it comes to the tech industry, the lack of female mentors and role models is one of the big barriers that women continue to face. To help amplify the voices of women in this field, our current blog series brings you stories and inspiration from impactful female changemakers in tech.
Last week we featured Renata Menezes, an entrepreneur who has been working towards creating innovations that transform the way people work, improving their productivity, and freeing up time for a healthier work-life balance.
This week our blog series features Mona Datt. Mona is the Founder of Loom Analytics. Her startup is extracting metadata from Canadian case law to provide analytics such as win/loss rates and publication times based on factors such as the facts of the case, type of motion or trial and the judge or master who heard the case. Legal intelligence using empirical data is non-existent in the Canadian market, and, through Loom Analytics, Mona is filling that void.
Mona sat down with us earlier this week to share her journey through the industry.
LIZ: What brought you into legal tech? Do you have a background in technology and/or law?
R: My background is in Computer and Electrical Engineering. Back to my days as a student, in my two first summer jobs, I started to work with data analysis and the use of data to improve processes. In one of my summer job positions, for example, I was using data analysis to reduce errors in the manufacturing line process.
My connection to law and the legal field comes from my husband and our first company. Loom Analytics is my second business. My first business, which started in 2006, allowed me to become highly experienced in managing solutions for law and insurance.
Therefore, I decided this was a great opportunity to marry my background in engineering with my experience in the fields of law and insurance. My interest has always been in how you can change processes and industries through efficient and creative use of data
LIZ: What are the main challenges you faced as a woman in your field? How did you overcome them?
R: The only time I felt personally discriminated against my gender was in high school. Back in 1996, I was the only female student in my cohort who got accepted into an engineering program. On this occasion I heard from many boys that I used to study with that engineering was not a field for women. Everything was great at McMaster University, where I pursued my undergraduate degree. There were only 6 female students (in a class with more than 300 students), but I never felt discriminated against in the university environment.
One thing that I would like to highlight was that five years after leaving my corporate engineering job I discovered that I was being paid significantly less than my male colleagues. These were people with exactly the same degree, from the same university, and whose experience matched my own in both quality and length. As a business owner, I don’t think that if I have asked for a raise my employer would have said no. But as a woman I was never told that it was ok to ask. As a woman you are encouraged to be accommodating, to be seen as a team player, to be grateful for what you have. Having learned this mentality, I carried it with me into my professional life.
I took me a long time to feel comfortable asking for what I deserve. The first time I had to ask clients for a price increase it was really hard for me. I was mostly just happy to have a job. I never said “I have a job and this is what I deserve.” I didn’t even look at what the standard salary for my position was.
I would ask for more responsibility, or even to shift departments, when I got bored with my job, but the compensation never adjusted because I never asked for it. As a business owner it completely make sense to me. If an employee doesn’t ask for a raise I won’t give it. I believe it is a cultural thing: if you do not ask, you will not receive.
LIZ: What is the main idea behind your business? What drives you and why is it so important?
R: Loom analytics is a data analytics toolkit. We provide different tools to clients so that they are able to extract value from their unused data. This is the type of data that they already generate from their business but don’t make any use of.
We aim to solve the problem of extracting useful data out of large datasets. What drives me is the technological challenge. It’s really rewarding to be able to pull data from unconventional sources, where data extraction is not normally possible, and then to actually make productive use of it.
LIZ: What piece of advice would you share with someone starting in this field or thinking of starting their own business in legal tech?
R: My advice for women working with technology is simple. If you do face obstacles for being a woman, do not let them stand in your way. Often the best approach is to ignore unproductive comments. Keep going towards your goals. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female. In the end, the only thing that matters is the quality of your work. Also, don’t assume that things will be handed to you. If you want something you have to ask for it!