By Alexandra Few
Women are continually pushing past barriers that have historically been placed in front of them in all aspects of life. However, in regards to occupations, women are changing the gender bias that occurs so that male-dominated occupations are inclusive and accepting of all genders.
Whether it be organizations fighting for more representation for women, or women being employed in male-dominated fields, it is evident that major changes are taking place so that there will no longer be a “male” job or a “female” job. Below are THREE organizations making these positive changes and paving the way for many women in these fields.
Canadian Women in Aviation (CWIA) is an organization that hosts a bi-annual conference, featuring women in the aviation field, who are often underrepresented. According to a labour market report by the Canadian Council for Aviation & Aerospace, this industry will need an additional 7,300 pilots by 2025. However, less than 1,200 new commercial pilot licenses are issued every year, and only 70% of these new pilots remain in this field. This translates to less than 500 new pilots in the Canadian industry every year, which is a significant concern, especially when women make up only 6% of aircraft mechanics and 7% of pilots.
Riel Erickson - Communications Director, CWIA and fighter pilot, says: “By bringing women together in the aviation industry to support each other, we hope to foster career growth and development. While it is great to have male mentors, research shows that it is more difficult for women than men to find mentors in male dominated fields than men, and this is one of the areas we attempt to assist with in bringing women together.”
Riel also mentions that the CWIA hopes to “connect women with networking and opportunities to learn from each other.” Reil says: “We also hope to bring more awareness to the number of women that are in the field and showcase it for other women that are looking to enter an aviation career. By doing this we hope to break down the paradigm of what is required to have a career in aviation.” As well, she mentions: “We really do encourage anyone with an interest in the aviation industry, who knows someone who may be interested, or doesn’t even know about opportunities available in the industry, to reach out to us. We have a number of attendees, men and women alike, who also work with women who are either pursuing future careers in aviation, or who want to know more, in order to provide guidance to women looking for a career path”.
This year’s CWIA conference theme is “beyond horizons”. Riel says: “As the aviation industry is booming it is an amazing opportunity for many women to break the paradigms, as the industry needs women to fill the demand. In order to recruit more women at the lower levels, we also need women to step into leadership roles in their respective trades. We are proud to have many aviation pioneers in our community, such as the first female fighter pilots, the first female pilots in commercial companies, the first women to lead military squadrons, etc. But we don’t want to stop at the first pilot [or] the first technician. We want to see women rise to the top of the industry and lead the way for future generations. We want to see women equally represented from the top down.”
Riel mentions that in regards gendered occupations as a whole, there are still some concerns when it comes to equality. She says: “Society is becoming more conscious of imposed gender norms that exist, and they are becoming more and more resistant to them, however, it’s hard to battle what we are exposed to every day. Movies and TV shows do not yet portray an equal number of women in many traditionally male occupations, so naturally we do not associate women with those careers. We are also constantly exposed to traditional thinking of masculinity and femininity, particularly in consumer markets [such as that] men are strong, women are beautiful. The more we expose people to a different reality, the more it will be accepted.
© L3 Commercial Aviation | YouTube
Riel recognizes that it will be tough, but change will happen. She says: “There will be a day that we don’t think of a particular gender in professions, nor will we stick to strong traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity, but there remains an uphill battle to this reality. It is an uphill battle that people are ready for as they are pushing back on the old paradigms. This is incredibly encouraging, and we are certainly starting to see more and more women entering untraditional occupations.
Women on the Move is a Toronto-based organization that recognizes how unrecognized women are in the business and entrepreneurial field. Over the past four years they have helped to train, coach, and advice over a thousand female founders. Women on the Move is truly making a difference for many women in this field that is often male-dominated, and associated with biased hierarchical positions of power.
Heather Gamble, CEO – Women on the Move says: “Women on the Move breaks down barriers for women led businesses. Currently less than 1% of all corporate procurement is done with women owned businesses. This stat alone says everything. Considering women are the fastest growing entrepreneurial market, it is astonishing that corporate Canada does not leverage this. Part of our mandate is to build export capacity and encourage women owned businesses to look at their business with an international lens. Most recently, McKinsey said it will take 180 years for Canada to have gender equality at work, and quite frankly we don’t have time to waste around and wait. Working women without borders is our go to market stance.”
Women on the Move also recognizes women in mining with the Artemis Project, which “accelerates business outcomes for women entrepreneurs in the Mining and Metals industry”. Heather says: “All women are important to fight for. Inequality is pervasive in mining and metals, as it is in other industries. There is abundance of evidence in terms of pay, procurement rates, leadership and board membership. We just happen to attract women in mining but MOST male dominated industries show the exact same evidence. Show us one male dominated industry where this is not the case. Artemis is a ground breaking model that will be applied across other male dominated industries, outside of mining and metals.”
In regards to the business field, Heather says: “Of course there are barriers at work. At work culture remains driven by leadership. Leadership remains largely White men who operate from their perspective. We cannot explain it and have no desire to, other than to say that women need to own their own rights and stand up for them, without fear. The trouble is that fear remains the biggest barrier to overcome. The question is, how do we rid fear?”
*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this section of the article are that of those identified, and do not reflect the view of the companies they work for or are involved with.*
© Society of Women Engineers | YouTube
The engineering field is highly gendered, as there is a significant percentage of more men in the STEM field than women. The Society of Women Engineers Toronto is helping to break this barrier and connect women in a community where they can feel “enabled, empowered and inspired” in the pursuit of being an engineer. Alessandra Massaro - President-Elect of SWE Toronto, says there are three main reasons as to why women don’t end up in engineering. First: “There aren’t many women in engineering. This in itself is enough to dissuade young women from entering the profession. When you don’t see yourself represented amongst the work force, you tend to internalize that you don’t belong there or that this isn’t for you.”
Second: “People tend to hire people that remind them of themselves, and typically young men remind older men of themselves, so men are more likely to recommend and hire other men; unconscious bias.”
Third, “The leaky pipeline, a study by Mary Wells, who created ONWIE, an organization to encourage young women and girls to study engineering, shows us that we lose women from engineering starting as early as grade 11 physics. Cultural norms and other factors influence women not to take that course, and you need grade 12 physics in order to get into an engineering program at a Canadian university. This is the first roadblock. The women that make it through to university find few female engineering professors to look up to, and approximately only 30% of fellow female students. Finally, in the workplace, many women are the only ones on their team. The number of women in engineering, licensed [and] practising, drops to 11% in the workplace.”
Evangeline Philos, President of SWE Toronto, says: “We at SWE Toronto hope more women will stay in the engineering profession, and this will in turn drive down the biases that are pervasive in our society. For example, do you ever hear the terms, woman lawyer or woman doctor? Woman engineer is unfortunately a term that is commonly heard across many disciplines in engineering, and this type of terminology can sometimes cause feelings of alienation. Women may hold these feelings within, not realizing that others may feel the same way. Until they start to openly talk about these feelings and realize that this is a pervasive issue, the feelings will continue to fester.”
Nicole Proulx - Industry Outreach Committee Director, SWE Toronto, says: “The greater diversity we are exposed to across various occupations, the more dissipated these implicit associations will become. This is important to ensure objective hiring and promoting within organizations. We must also ensure that women have female role models in leadership positions to look up to and to help women view themselves in these roles through these female leaders”.
SWE Toronto has a variety of programs such as Coffee Club, SWE Speaks and Eng-Social that all work to encourage SWE members to connect. Alessandra says: “By having events like Coffee Club, SWE Speaks and SWE Social we are showing the community that they belong, that there are people that look like them in the industry, and that we are here to support each other.”
“In order to effectively develop a solution, engineers spend time deep-diving into the problem. By providing a platform for discussions at a grassroots level, SWE Toronto allows the challenges faced by women to surface, and enables the development of solutions that address root causes” - Evangeline Philos
There are a variety of organizations that are breaking barriers and changing how society views occupations. Do your part in changing the way you identify with certain occupations, and encourage others to break down the barriers as well.