Diversity In The Workplace : Ask Afrodite Cruz

According to Statistics Canada, by 2017, the number of visible minorities in Canada is expected to double and account for approximately 20% of Canada’s population. Diversity in the workplace is seen as a major challenge especially for women and minorities. We sat down with Afrodite Cruzcurrently the Recruitment, Placement and Employer Relations Officer for the Master of Management of Innovation (MMI) program at the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus and discussed in depth her role and challenges she has overcome in the workplace. 

Afrodite Cruz

What are your responsibilities at the University of Toronto?

Currently I work with the Master of Management of Innovation Program at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus.  This is a program that helps science and engineering students bridge the gap between science and business.  I oversee recruitment, employer relations as well as career counseling and professional development in this role.  We have a mandatory internship component in the MMI and part of my job also includes preparing students for this internship and working with companies to create jobs for my students.

What kind of challenges/advances did you see when managing the Diversity & Women's portfolio at Roman? 

During my time at Rotman, I worked on the FT MBA Recruitment and Admissions team.  Women and minorities are extremely underrepresented in business schools and Rotman was active in trying to change this.  On average, only 30% of MBA classrooms are comprised of women – this is a number that top schools worldwide are trying to increase.  While at Rotman, we partnered with the Forte Foundation, which is based in the US.  This organization helps young women learn more about career opportunities pre and post MBA and also offers generous funding and professional development opportunities.

Women very regularly put off doing an MBA and other advanced degrees because of several reasons.  These include but are not limited to high costs of education, fear of heavy studies, family responsibilities and fear of taking time off work  to return to school.  Unless we educate women about the long term benefits of proper training and mentorship and provide better funding opportunities for women to pay for school, we will not see the numbers of women pursuing advanced education rise.

Why did you choose to get into managing the Diversity & Women's portfolio?

I was very lucky to have these portfolios assigned to me.  My boss at the time noticed that these issues were of personal importance to me and asked me to advocate for them in my job.  As an immigrant, as a woman and as a mother to mixed race kids, I felt very connected to issues that relate to diversity and equality.  As someone who works in education, I feel that it is my responsibility to not just speak up about wanting change but to also influence change with my actions.  The work that I continue to do in both of these areas is very personal and plays into my professional life daily.

What's your favourite part of the job? What's your biggest challenge?

I have so many things that I love about my role at UTM!  If I had to narrow it down, I would say that aside from working with an amazingly supportive, innovative and positive team,  my favourite part of my job is seeing the change in my students from the time they apply to the MMI program to the time they graduate from it.  My students often say that what I do in a span of 12 month is magic but the truth is is that when you motivate students to see in themselves the potential that you see in them the magic is just waiting to happen.

My biggest challenge currently is a good one to  have.  This year, the MMI is a much larger program than in past years.  We have 34 students who are all very different and have very different goals.  For me, delivering personalized and meaningful career services and advice to them has been challenging – but doable!  When I get very busy and feel overwhelmed at work, I remind myself of the sacrifices the students are making when they take the time out of a hectic day to come and meet with me.  If they can focus on the big picture and make time to seek help from me, then I can make the time to ensure that they all feel important when they are with me.  In the same way that I motivate and challenge my students, they motivate and challenge me.  I  am so thankful that I have the opportunity to influence such an incredible group and I am humbled by the confidence that my students have in me.

Don't miss out our Diversity in the Workplace Panel happening October 19th and hear more from Afrodite Cruz!

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