Shannon Susko Blog

Why did I not care that I was a "girl" while doing cool sh*t?

Shannon SuskoOct 08, 2015




On December 19, 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world. This year the theme is the “Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030”. Any girl who will be born this year will be an adolescent by 2030. The goals internationally are to increase awareness and to invest in girls from socially and economically ensuring there is major break throughs from an intergenerational diffusion of poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination. With the goal of achieving fair and viable development outcomes.

In Whistler, BC, a group initiated by Dee Raffo, have organized an event to support the community at the adolescent age as well as the whole community. This day is not just about girls – this day is about raising awareness of everyone that we must invest in all youth to grow a strong and vibrant community.

The local Whistler organization of Dee Raffo, Danielle Kristmanson, Kevani MacDonald, and Maja Ronneberger, has brought in Miki Agrawal - who is recipient of the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival’s “Disruptive Innovation Award” and was named 2013’s Forbes’ "Top 20 Millienials On a Mission" -  and Andrew Horn, a serial social entrepreneur, to share their story and experiences. On October 12th there will be a workshop in the day time, “Doing Well by Doing Good (5 Things I wish I had Known in School)”, for all youths Grade 7-12 at Whistler Secondary and then in the evening at Rainbow Theatre where Miki will do a presentation on "How to Do Cool Sh*t". This is a presentation for the whole community, young and old. This evening will also have a Dragon’s Den Style Cool/Business Idea “Pitch” Event. The whole premise of the day is around coming up with a very bold and big idea that will affect millions of people.

When I was growing up there was no celebration for the International Day of the Girl. When I think back to that – I personally don’t think that it was unusual. Growing up as a girl in a very traditional family – I was expected to do well in school and everything I did. I was expected to go to University and get a degree. After that I was expected to get married, stay home and raise children. BUT – somewhere along the way, I got a different message. Somehow these parental driven expectations were missed. Frankly it's not that I wasn't aware of the expectation – I certainly was – but for some reason I didn't care. I had other ideas and other things to do.

I did get good grades – top of my class. I did excel at varsity sports as well as provincial level and national level sports. I was a very high achiever – being the youngest of 5 kids (2 brothers and 2 sisters) in 6 years. I did go to university and got a four year degree by the time I was 21. I also went back for two more degrees in the very male dominated faculty of Computer Science. I still did not care that I was only 1 of 2 girls in a Computer Science Degree class, as well as for my Masters of Computer Science. I was definitely aware but I did not care. Why?

Even after graduating from university and moving out to Whistler, BC to build my first tech company with 3 other co-founders - one of which was 15 years old – I did not pay any attention to gender. Really – why should I? All I wanted to do was build a global payment processing company and believed we could. When I was the last founder standing after a few years and CEO of the company – I was aware there were not many female CEOs in general and definitely not in tech. I did not care.

When we sold this company to a US company and I became the first female executive in the history of this company – I did not care. I can remember being warned that there were no female leaders in this company. I did learn more about gender awareness that is taking place in the world through this experience but I did not let it stop me from being the very best to achieve the business results we were striving for.

I did leave and started another global FinTech company with a partner. As CEO – my peers in the industry were still all male. I did not care. Not a bit.

I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to speak at all kinds of events – business, educational, universities and female focused. It’s interesting the questions that I get asked at the female focused events over the other events. How were you able to raise $20+ million as a female? How did you keep your team so diverse? Why did you go into Computer Science? How did you know you would be successful as a female? WOW!

None of these questions even entered my mind til then. And it's funny – that the answer to all of these questions are the same – I believed in myself. I was passionate about what I was doing. And thankfully I was able to find a whole-team of like-minded people who wanted to achieve the same goals. Looking back it was the inherent support of my family, friends, teachers, and coaches and their belief in me. Whistler’s Celebration of International Day of the Girl is sponsored by We need to support our local youth – male and female – in way that they first believe in themselves, are passionate about an idea and have the courage and confidence to take action. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about Miki’s journey and hear from 5 courageous people that will pitch their great bold ideas that evening. The event is being held at the Rainbow Theatre – 7pm – get your tickets at All proceeds go to support: Howe Sound Women’s Centre and One Horizon.

In: Business