Mary Lobson, Founder of REES Technology Group Inc. has used her career in gender-based violence to develop a customizable platform for centralized reporting, access to resources, and broad data compilation. North Forge Technology Exchange has helped her to navigate through her entrepreneurial journey.
“REES stands for Respect, Educate, Empower Survivors. It’s a simple, secure online platform for reporting sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault that can be adapted for use across sectors and industries. This was really important to us, when we developed it, recognizing that sexual violence and unwanted sexualized behaviours occur in every setting including campuses, communities and workplaces,” said Mary Lobson, Founder of REES
“We wanted something that could be easily adapted with the goal of reducing barriers to reporting and creating safer spaces. Sexual violence is one of the most underreported crimes with only about 5% reporting to police and that hasn’t changed in the last 30 years.
REES forms part of the risk management strategy in the workplace and enhances HR processes by increasing reporting pathways, gathering anonymous data and providing information about support and resources. For employers, sexual harassment can have a significant impact on their bottom line relating to productivity, absenteeism, recruitment, retention, turnover, litigation, insurance, brand reputation and share performance.”
Lobson noted, “The space that I am working in, which is sexual violence, is one that I think has been viewed as a women’s issue for a very long time. It is important to break the stereotypes and stigma, and recognize that approximately 70% of employees, women, men and people of all genders, experience sexual violence in their workplace. This is an issue that’s prevalent no matter where you go, no matter what industry you’re in. It’s across the board.”
“We are at a time where companies are evaluating their commitment to the ESG’s (Environmental, Social and Governance) and the Sustainable Development Goals. Gender equality includes creating campuses, workplaces and communities where people feel safe and able to reach their full potential. Creating a safer workplace is both good business and good for business.”
Lobson came into North Forge prior to moving forward with an MVP (minimum viable product) and indicated that it provided much-needed help with the foundational pieces of being a start-up. “North Forge has been a sounding board through EIRs (Entrepreneurs-in-Residence) and Joelle (CEO of North Forge) and the staff are so knowledgeable and accessible. We’re a diverse group of founders and at different stages, so it helps that resources can be accessed based on what we need and when. There are many resources that are available to us such as lawyers, accounting, marketing – so not limited to just North Forge – there are other memberships to other organizations. We’re constantly being fed new information about so many things like fundraising, grants, webinars, subsidies, resources.”
Lobson offered her advice to other founders in early-stage development, “I would say don’t be afraid to ask for what you need or for help from others. I have found the startup and tech community to be generous with their support and willingness to assist. The other thing is to really be open to soaking up as much information as you can and learning from other people who have already done this and have expertise.
Self-care and the founder’s journey can be challenging. It is helpful to have people you can talk to as leading a startup has lots of ups and downs with amazing peaks and valleys. For me, it is also important to take the time to be away from work and striving for harmony, rather than balance, in my life.”
Lobson also spoke about the team at North Forge suggesting that “…the experience here at North Forge is different because it is a women-led organization with a female team. There is an acknowledgment of the additional barriers women face as founders, especially relating to accessing capital and providing specialized programming to create a more inclusive environment.”
North Forge Technology Exchange is led by CEO Joelle Foster with an all-female executive team at the helm.
REES launched in Manitoba in September of 2020 and has campus partners in British Columbia and Ontario. REES is available in both French and English and will be available province-wide at all Manitoba post-secondary institutions in the fall of 2021. REES is also expanding into new verticals, with announcements forthcoming.
Mary Lobson and her team have developed REES while in the four-stage Founders Program with North Forge Technology Exchange, based in Winnipeg, MB. If you are interested in learning more about developing your tech or advanced manufacturing startup with North Forge, fill out the application here.