For more than three decades, the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards have recognized and celebrated the strides of Canada’s most accomplished, influential and impactful women. The Awards, which are presented by Women of Influence, shine a spotlight on women who have been instrumental in driving business success in Canada. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we proudly recognize and promote their inspiring stories.
Fadwa Mohanna established One37 in 2019 to facilitate the seamless exchange and verification of trusted, reusable data for various industries, such as travel, telecom, and financial services.
Frustrated by the constant need to prove her identity credentials, Fadwa envisioned a solution to allow personal credentials to be stored on a digital wallet on one’s phone and used to complete identity verification across different organizations and use cases.
“One37 ID is about delivering digital trust” and offers tools for enterprises, governments, and individuals, like you and me, to promote privacy, security, data control and ownership,” she says. “We provide users with the confidence that they are interacting safely and securely in the digital space while giving enterprises the assurance that they are engaging with a trusted user.”
Mohanna’s entrepreneurial journey began after a mishap while visiting a telecommunications company in Dubai. She was required to leave her Identity Card at the reception in exchange for a temporary card. Her card was missing when she returned, as it had been mistakenly given to another visitor.
In Dubai, the Identity Card is mandatory for all transactions, including banking and travelling. “What kept me up that night was the question, ‘given that the ID Card is so important, why do we leave it at a reception?'” She went back to the same building and convinced the telco to let her build a solution, which she called the Smart Concierge, to eliminate the need for the physical ID Card. After participating in a blockchain competition, she was asked to create a solution to allow people to travel at Dubai airport by proving their identity using iris recognition. These projects led to the creation of One37 ID, which now employs 18 employees and is growing steadily.
The power within: Thriving in a male-dominated industry
RBC’s 2023 theme for International Women’s Day is “Celebrate the Power Within.”
In the technology field, Mohanna is familiar with being one of the few women — and sometimes the only woman — in the room. When she studied engineering at the American University of Beirut, only 5 out of the 95 students in the program were female.
As the head of deployment and implementation in the telecommunications industry, she’s led teams setting up greenfield telecom mobile networks in various countries, including Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Dubai. In Algeria, she led a team of 250 engineers as the only woman and the youngest member. During the initial meetings, she felt like “the odd one out,” but she worked hard and let the results speak for themselves. She gained acceptance and recognition.
Despite her success in the industry, Mohanna is still concerned by the lack of female representation in tech. “When you’re the only woman in the room, aspiring to climb the corporate ladder, you lack the role models you can look up to. In the boardroom, there used to be twenty men in suits and me — it was a lonely experience.”
However, Mohanna draws strength from within to stand out in the industry. She also celebrates the power within other women who aspire to be tech leaders of the future. At One37, she’s made it a priority to create a diverse and inclusive environment. She strives for 50 er cent women on her team and has implemented strong DEI policies to ensure her company represents the real world as best as possible.
What if we embraced equity?
One of the other issues women in tech face is a lack of funding.
“I am calling for diversity and funding for women and will keep doing it because of the lack of awareness.” She explains that while there is a lot of talk about women entrepreneurs and women in tech these days, the data tells the real story that very few funding opportunities are reserved for women-led tech businesses.
“This is a huge problem,” says Mohanna, who sees first-hand the discrepancy between funding opportunities for women-only startups versus those led by men. It’s one she is raising her voice about.
The global theme for International Women’s Day, #EmbraceEquity, resonates deeply with Mohanna. “When investors and the corporate world truly embrace equity in tech, we will start to see a more diverse and inclusive representation of the real world,” she says. “Currently, most of the products we use and consume are designed and coded by men, resulting in a male-dominated vision of tech. When we have products designed by all of us, for the use of all of us, that would be truly inclusive,” she says.
As CEO of One37, Mohanna is building cutting-edge solutions while advocating for change in the industry. Despite the ongoing challenges and lack of representation, she remains an inspiring role model for women in tech and a powerful voice for gender equity.
She is certainly “One to Watch” as she continues to grow her business and push for greater diversity and inclusion in the tech world.
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