Judi Hess
Credit: Paul Joseph

CEO, Copperleaf Technologies

Copperleaf Technologies Inc. provides decision analytics software to help utilities like Hydro-Québec, Iceland’s Landsvirkjun Power Ltd. and Essential Energy in Australia manage critical infrastructure. When Hess became CEO in 2009, Copperleaf had just one client (U.S. electric power provider Duke Energy Corp.) and 27 staff members. The company has grown to 35 major clients and expects to have at least 150 employees by the end of this month.

Hess grew up in Toronto and graduated from the University of Waterloo with an honours bachelor of mathematics and a minor in business administration from Wilfrid Laurier University. Fresh out of school in 1981, she was hired as a software engineer by Richmond-based global aerospace and information company MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. In 1995, she moved to Creo Inc., a Burnaby-headquartered specialist in printing technology, becoming president in 2002. When U.S.-based Eastman Kodak Co. bought Creo for US$1 billion in 2005, she was made a corporate officer and VP of Eastman Kodak and appointed managing director of Kodak Canada two years later.

Since Hess’s arrival at Copperleaf, the number of female employees has risen from about 10 percent to roughly a third. Hess feels strongly that if a woman is capable of doing a job, she’s probably the best candidate because she would need to have been more accomplished than a man in the same position. “At least what I see from my career, I think I was way more qualified,” notes the Premier’s Technology Council member. “I had to be a lot better to get those positions in this male world.”

How can we get more women into STEM?

We are formed by what we see, Hess maintains, so both men and women expect there to be more men in technology companies. Hess points out that when her father graduated from law school, there was one woman in the class photo, whereas now more than half of Canadian lawyers are women, and the number of females has increased in medicine, accounting and other fields. “I think me being the CEO and being a woman helps to bring women into the company,” she says. “The CEO’s a woman, so maybe this is a place for women.”