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Posts from the ‘Diversity’ Category

The Future of Women in STEM: A Multifaceted Approach

 

Katie Bieber is an IT Recruitment Consultant in Roevin’s Edmonton branch. She brings over three yearKatieBiebers of professional experience to her role and in Edmonton’s tech sector.  Katie focuses on clients in the IT realm and has developed exceptional connections and a network of candidates in the STEM field. She works with many passionate and pioneering candidates who overcome impressive hurdles as the only women applying for a role or being the only women on a team. Their perseverance and success have inspired her own passion for promoting women in the tech arena.


With March being National Engineering Month – coupled with International Women’s Day falling on March 8th — Adecco is continuing our look at the underrepresentation of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

The topic has become an increasingly important point of discussion. Various government bodies, reports, studies, organizations, mission statements and think tanks have explored it in recent years.  The problem has almost unanimous support — both from diversity advocates and the STEM sector itself. In 2010,  Natural Sciences and Engineer Research Council of Canada (NSERC) released an 84-page report on Women in Science and Engineering in Canada which explored the “under-representation of women in the various fields of science and engineering” and noted that this long-recognized problem was “of concern to the…NSERC”.

Are women really underrepresented in STEM?

Undeniably, yes!

WomeninSTEM_infographic

According to the 2011 National Household Survey, women accounted for only 39% of university graduates aged 25-34 with a STEM degree, compared with 66% of university graduates in non-STEM programs.  Moreover, the percentage of women working in the fields has barely changed in 30 years. In 1987, 20% of the STEM workforce were women. Today, it is still only 22%.

And as NSERC pointed out in their report, “Virtually all countries in the world, to varying levels, have fewer women than men studying in the NSE” (natural sciences and engineering).

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Women in STEM: An Interview with Réjeanne Aimey

March is National Engineering Month — a celebration of engineering excellence commemorated by Engineers Canada since 1992. This year’s theme of “There’s a place for you” recognizes inclusion, diversity and opportunity in the engineering field. Coupled with today being International Women’s Day, we thought it the perfect occasion to profile inspiring women in the engineering profession and show budding young female technicians and scientists how rewarding a career in engineering can be. Below is Adecco’s interview with Réjeanne Aimey, P.Eng, MBA — an experienced and inspirational engineering professional based out of Toronto — discussing not only her experience as a woman in STEM but also a woman of colour in this highly competitive and historically exclusive field.

RejeanneAimeyRéjeanne is Canadian born and was raised in Trinidad and Tobago from the age of 3 to the end of high school. While in Trinidad she became heavily involved in music from the age of 6, learning music theory and playing the piano to achieve the highest grade certifications possible from the Trinity College of Music in London, UK. She attended the prestigious Bishop Anstey High School, a school for girls where entrance is determined based on academic ability. After her return to Canada, she attended the University of Western Ontario, in London, where she completed a Bachelor of Engineering Science in Mechanical Engineering. Réjeanne’s professional pursuits have been multiple and included work in R&D, structural, noise and vibration, and durability analysis using finite element techniques, lean continuous improvement, nuclear reactor engineering, heavy industrial equipment maintenance, software implementation, and SR&ED consulting. She is also a member of Professional Engineers Ontario and the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers. While working, she completed a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.  Réjeanne’s goal is to increase her visibility in the hope that it will encourage others to exceed their goals, to foster STEM learning among youth, and to advocate for the engineering profession in Ontario.

What made you first fall in love with STEM?

I’ve had a curiosity about the world for as long as I can remember. It first started off at a very young age with my toys. I remember wanting to learn how they worked and most importantly — how they moved. I realized quickly that, at first, my brother’s toys seemed much more engaging than those given directly to me. Even today, boys’ toys seem to have pre-determined motion built into them while girls’ toys are stationary and require the child to use her creativity to create motion! So I played with them both, but the boys’ toys immediately satisfied my curiosity and developed my intellect much more.

Also, there was always some interesting project happening around my home that I was curious about. These ranged from the mixing of cement and gardening to building a dog house, an outdoor pond, or baking a cake. Lots of stimulation for me there.

When I started school and was first exposed to science, there was no question that it was for me. As I was exposed to more and more topics, my interest grew and there was no looking back.

Growing up, did you always want to get into the engineering field?

To tell you the truth, I always knew it was an option, but I wasn’t completely sure in my teenage years because of my love of art. I am no Monet, but I recall thinking that I loved them both equally and considered architecture to be the perfect marriage between art and science. In the end, though, I chose engineering because I felt it was much more stable and I could always pursue my artistic endeavours through other avenues.

I should add that my father is a civil engineer and there are many other types of engineers in my extended family. Many people that I’ve mentioned this to think that an engineering path was guaranteed for me, but my family never sat me down and told me to do engineering. When I did mention my decision, they were happily supportive nonetheless.

Did you have a mentor/role model in STEM that inspired or encouraged you to get into the field?

“I can’t recall one black female engineer or scientist whom I looked to for inspiration, but I recall many women who had broken gender barriers…”

The high school I went to instilled in us that there is no limit to our pursuits. I can’t recall one black female engineer or scientist whom I looked to for inspiration, but I recall many women who had broken gender barriers in various other fields. All I knew is that I liked motion and science, I did well at it academically, I could do whatever I wanted, and engineering was it.

Have you encountered sexism and/or racism in your technical education and profession?

I would answer “yes, ” but it did feel more like racism than sexism. I feel that I can make that determination because though I was born in Canada, I was raised in another country that is a melting pot of a variety of races and cultures. My family members held positions in their chosen fields, most country leaders looked exactly like me, I was surrounded by others who mostly looked like me, no one’s ambition was tempered in academia due to their family’s socio-economic status — so there was no question about my abilities or pursuits. I attended one of the best high schools and studied alongside some of the most intelligent and successful women I will ever meet in this lifetime. So I know what equal and preferential treatment feels like and there was a definite shift in that feeling once I arrived back in Canada.

How did you overcome it — mentally and practically?

“My character is defined by a variety of pursuits — when things appear to not go well in one area, my other interests keep me happily engaged and entertained.”

My ambition, resolve, drive, and determination is strong — qualities instilled in me by my family, friends, teachers, and elders. It definitely helped growing up in the environment that I did. For the most part, I ignored any slights I noticed along my journey and was grateful for the opportunities I did receive. A valuable opportunity always seemed to become available to me when I needed it, and that has made up for all the treatment I received that I felt was racist, sexist, or unfair. To be fair to those who introduced these unnecessary barriers, I truly do not believe some of them were fully aware that decisions they made were based more on perceptions of my race and culture than on my actual abilities.

Also, I suppose that because my character is defined by a variety of pursuits — when things appear to not go well in one area, my other interests keep me happily engaged and entertained.

How do you think we can better encourage girls and women — particularly women of colour — to get into engineering?

First off, I think that kids should always be bombarded with opportunities to learn about science and technology. STEM can be applied to practically every interest area in today’s world, so there really is no excuse for not including a demographic due to their perceived lack of interest. I think that when introduced with qualities that all excellent teachers should exude – intelligence, patience, caring, attentiveness, fairness, and equality – any child would excel in STEM.

Whether male or female, I think we need to start from youth. If we don’t inspire kids through the toys that they play with as a child, or from the positive influence of family members or family friends, then we should be able to attract them to STEM through a fair and equal education system. There are also many extra-curricular endeavours available that can help. One such endeavor I am involved in is the Women in Engineering and Science (WIES) Design Competition which runs over 2 weekends in the summer and is open to kids ages 11 to 14. Last year, we taught kids how to design, build, and market apps for common sports injuries. This year we are hoping to include mechanical design and 3D printing. The solutions that the kids came up with last year rivalled those of professionals. We are looking for sponsors, volunteers, and participants for the competition coming up in July so it would be a great venue for educators and corporate sponsors to get involved and make a difference on the ground.

As a society, we tend to only value those we know, or who look and sounds like us, so until we overcome that, I believe that girls of colour need to see and be engaged by women of colour in STEM fields to know what is possible for them. Profiles like this — along with the recent ‘HERstory In Black’ feature from CBC and How She Hustles — definitely help, so I’d like to express my gratitude to Adecco for including me in your feature.

What practical steps can educators, legislators and employers take to make engineering a more welcoming profession for women?

Educators can help by ensuring that all kids are equally exposed to STEM topics and directing them to resources that foster their interests.

Legislators can help by pushing to eliminate streaming or phasing in schools to ensure all kids (regardless of race or gender) have equal access to information and continue to be stimulated by those who are both more and less intellectually advanced than they are.

Employers can help by providing worthy opportunities to women and minorities, and by establishing audited mentorship programs so that they can advance.

What advice do you have for young women of colour who are considering a career in engineering?

“Giving up is not an option. You can do it.”

My advice would be to go for it. Make sure you keep your grades up and if you need help, keep seeking it until you get it. The right people will always be made available to you once you put in the effort, and you must be prepared for the ‘right people’ not having anything in common with you apart from your love of engineering. Push the boundaries of your learning if you can by becoming involved in STEM projects after school. Disassociate from those who discourage you. If you cannot disassociate, ignore those who discourage you from pursuing what you value, whether it is family or ‘well-meaning’ friends. Giving up is not an option. You can do it.

From New Immigrant to Superstar: promoting diverse talent is a business advantage

Even though Canada’s Employment Equity Act was instituted 30 years ago (1986) and diversity in the workplace has certainly improved since[i], we as employers still have a long way to go.

Several studies have shown that while “[o]n average, immigrants arrive in this country better educated, in better health, and at similar stages of their careers as those born in the country…the evidence suggests that…they have been much less successful in achieving success than earlier waves of immigration.”[ii] Access to job opportunities, upward mobility, earnings, and income have been poorer for visible minorities than non-visible minorities in Canada.[iii]

While visible minority men and women have higher educational qualifications (more visible minorities have university degrees than their non-visible minority counterparts in Canada), fewer are reaching top income levels. The earnings of visible minorities simply do not match their educational achievements.[iv]

And while we’re making progress in female leadership (women currently hold 19.5% of board seats[v]), other minority groups are still dramatically underrepresented in leadership roles in Canadian organizations– visible minorities hold only 4.6%, persons with disabilities hold only 2.7% cent, and aboriginal people hold only 1.1% of board seats.[vi]  The corporate sector is the worst offender, with only 4% of leadership roles being filled by visible minorities.[vii]  While companies may place a great deal of importance on hiring visible minorities, it is clear that they do not do enough to retain them— often creating a higher turnover rate among visible minorities when they see no opportunities to advance or feel they do not fit in.[viii]

These disappointing statistics do a disservice not only to thousands of highly qualified professionals from minority groups but also to the very companies who are failing to promote them: diverse workplaces have more satisfied workers and lower absenteeism, they tend to be more innovative and less prone to groupthink, and are able to reach a more diverse customer base (i.e., there are tangible financial benefits to having a more diverse workplace).[ix]

Canadian companies need to have effective programs for building and utilizing the talents of a truly diverse workforce and recognizing their hard work. Attracting and hiring diverse talent is only a first step.

shutterstock_344201303Adecco doesn’t have all the answers to solve this systemic problem, but we do have a Diversity Committee who is working on awareness, advocacy, outreach, research, client education and having a multiplicity of voices represented in decision making. We also promote the Power of Workplace Diversity to our clients— some of Canada’s largest employers.

Most importantly, we practice internally what we advocate to clients. Hiring and promoting diverse talent is not just a “best practice” for us; it’s our standard practice and commitment.

Today, Sohail Dossani is the manager of Adecco’s Central Order Management and Corporate Recruitment Centre divisions— but he started a long way out from a managerial role in an office environment. He came to Canada in 2002, and within a decade, worked his way up from a fast food restaurant to leading 2 important departments and being the overall “go to” person for the world’s largest Staffing firm. Below is his story. We hope it inspires employers to recognize the benefits of hiring a diverse and talented workforce and giving new immigrants a real opportunity to succeed.


Hope

Sohail grew up in Pakistan, where he earned a degree in Computer Science and landed a job with IBM— first working in Karachi and then Dubai.

One day, his boss announced that he was moving to Canada. This got Sohail thinking about his own career and future. He decided that he too would apply to immigrate to Canada for better opportunities. His former boss had been successful in getting a job in the IT field, and Sohail was optimistic and hopeful about replicating his success. In fact, he wasn’t the least bit worried about it.

Disappointment

Unfortunately, his hopes were deflated soon after his arrival in Toronto. He applied for job after job in the IT field but came up empty. His degree was of little help for getting hired, and his lack of Canadian experience was a hindrance to landing a job that matched his qualifications—(a bottleneck many new Canadians face, but has since been banned in Ontario and successfully opposed in court in other provinces). Being new to the country, he didn’t know what employment resources were available to him or where to start; he didn’t know the processes for working with various agencies and community groups, or which were reliable.

“There were plenty of electronic resources but hardly anyone you could sit face to face with to get information,” remembers Sohail.

He decided to just go door to door to businesses to try secure work. “It was very hard,” he recounts.

He eventually ended up getting a job at a factory and was responsible for labeling fire logs. Unfortunately, he saw many health and safety violations going on around him but continued to work there as it was the only job available to him at the time— an unfortunate choice many people in similar circumstances are forced to make.

Promise

Sohail approached a popular fast food restaurant for extra shifts to supplement his income and gain field experience. The manager hired him on the spot; after all, a man with a university degree was standing in front of him asking for minimum wage work. While continuing to work at the factory, Sohail lead the night crew at the restaurant.

Before he moved to Canada, he never imagined himself working at a fast food restaurant, but he appreciated the safety and managerial training they company had in place. The role also helped him make an important decision: to go back to university to attain his master’s degree. He soon became the closing manager at the eatery and was eventually able to leave his factory job.

Opportunity

While studying during the day and working in the restaurant at night, Sohail was living next to a large electronics manufacturer in the north of the city and saw workers coming and going day after day. He decided to drop off his resume and learned that the company was using Adecco to fill open positions.

Sohail wanted to be proactive, so reached out to a counselor in the Skills and Employment program (SEP) at his local mosque for assistance in finding new job opportunities. Serendipitously, an Adecco recruiter had been working with the mosque for community recruitment and job support. When the counselor heard about Sohail’s interest in the electronics firm, he quickly put him in touch with us. At that time, the firm was only hiring for an entry level production worker— a role Sohail was overqualified for. Our recruiter advised him to stay in his supervisory fast food role a little while longer, while she searched for a better-suited position for him.

Success

Soon after, the same electronics company was looking to hire a functional tester and debug operator, which was much better suited for Sohail’s credentials and qualifications. He was hired! While the salary was lower than his previous position, he was grateful to be working in a discipline that let him use his resident skill set and put him closer to his primary field of IT. He was confident that he’d be able to work his way up!

Sohail worked in production at the firm for 2 years until Adecco needed a new on-site manager to supervise our staff working there. While he didn’t have much HR experience, he was skilled and highly respected by his colleagues. We interviewed him for the new role and were convinced of the same: he was experienced enough to manage the on-site staff and could learn any HR skills he was lacking. We hired him as the supervisor for the weekend and night shifts. This was one of Adecco’s largest accounts, so to entrust him with this important responsible really demonstrates his competency and our confidence in him. He exceeded all expectations: he became a full-time Adecco colleague and was quickly promoted to Partnership Manager, supporting 4 of our large partnership clients across Ontario along with multiple service delivery teams. Perhaps most rewardingly, Sohail was able to hire other deserving people in this role.

Leadership

When Adecco had a vacancy for an Operations Manager to support the SW Ontario Region, we didn’t think twice. Sohail had proven his commitment, drive and quick learning abilities. He served as the Ops Manager for over a year and was then given yet another opportunity: becoming the manager of Adecco’s COM department in London, ON. The Central Order Management team provides centralized services for Adecco’s national accounts, particularly those who operate across multiple geographic locations.

Sohail has now led the team for over a year and has worked hard to restructure the team’s responsibilities, processes and customer service delivery. His initiatives have not only streamlined team support across the organization but have also allowed us to pursue and deliver exceptional service to large accounts which we simply would not be able to do without a well-run COM department.

Sohail is in charge of many large accounts, yet still has time to answer questions from across Adecco’s 40 offices, and always seems at ease. He tackles his growing responsibilities and occupational challenges with optimism, tenacity and a smile— much like he did when he first arrived in Canada.

Superstar

It was this attitude and disposition that lead Sohail’s colleagues to nominate him for Adecco’s prestigious Superstar Award—which he very deservingly won. The award is given to 11 colleagues who demonstrate excellence across our core values and comes with an all-expenses-paid trip with a guest.

Despite all his success, Sohail is still humble about his achievements. “I did not ever expect this in a field that I was not primarily educated or trained in,” he says. “It truly feels like success. I feel that the hard work has definitely paid off in building my profile from the ground up. My family is very proud.”

Sohail got an opportunity from Adecco when he was just starting out, but he has earned his career growth since then by taking advantage of training resources (such as Adecco’s free SkillBuilder application offered to all Associates), and by going back to school. He also took courses in HR to improve his skills when he found himself in an unfamiliar profession. And he turned to his co-workers for advice and support when he needed it.

It’s the same advice Sohail gives to new immigrants today:

“Use the value-added resources available to you and make them work for you. Improve your skills and education in any way possible. Just keep seeking opportunities to learn and grow your skill set. Don’t wait for them to be offered to you.”


Sohail was given an opportunity by an employer who did more than just “value” diversity. We recognized that the talent we hire should be based on merit and commitment, not credentials or stereotypes. When an organization eliminates candidates based on prejudice, they not only break the law, but also hurt their own organizations by smothering varying viewpoints, hindering a diverse workplace culture, and limiting connections to a multiplicity of client groups and talent pools. When they take the time to get to know applicants— and look at what they can do— the organization benefits exponentially.

When asked what has made him so successful in a field he never imagined being in, Sohail cites the same reasons many successful people do— whether new immigrants or seasoned veterans: like what you do and who you work with. “The colleagues within Adecco really helped give me the support that I needed and helped me stay motivated as they believed in me.”

Sohail is such an integral part of the Adecco family, we couldn’t imagine it any other way. We saw the possibility he held, and he has continuously worked so hard to live it up to it. We encourage and advise all our clients and Canadian employers to do the same. Do more than just “value” diversity; practice it and it will reward your entire organization.

Managing Introvert and Extrovert Personalities in the Workplace

Employees come from different backgrounds, with different work ethics and their own distinct personalities. Together, they form a cohesive team but ultimately, they are all comprised of their own characteristics that add a different spin to the team dynamic. Managing multiple personalities is no easy feat, as introvert and extrovert personalities have their differences, and it is up to the employer to monitor these differences  in the workplace to ultimately bring their team together.

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Squashing Generational Stereotypes

Generational stereotypes are placed on employees of all ages. However, this type of mentality is counterproductive and only infringes on perceptions of these employees in the workplace. Let’s squash the rumors by first showing the stereotypes that are placed on these groups by others, and then we’ll show the value that each group brings to the workplace that counters the rumours about these generational workforces.

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Older Workers, Bolder Earners?

We’ve talked a lot about the advantages young people contribute to the workforce, but there is also a lot to be said about what older workers bring to the table, and how a mix of youthful and mature employees can lead to competitive advantages with the right management. Plus, there is no shortage of older workers in Canada. According to a Statistics Canada finding published early this year, 60% of Canadians who left a long-term job (12 years or longer) in their late fifties re-entered the workforce within a decade of leaving it.

But still, in a time when mandatory retirement is a thing of the past and people are living longer than ever, many older workers who have left the workforce are having trouble getting back in based on stereotypes and prejudices that are utterly unfounded. Read more