Women in STEM Recap


While an increasingly larger number of women are choosing to pursue degrees in the traditionally male-dominated STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) the percentage of women actually working in these fields has not changed much in the last three decades. There has been much research into the reasons behind these stagnant numbers, yet many of the forces keeping women from progressing remain invisible from the outside. With the recent rise of movements like #metoo and #timesup, issues of blatant harassment and discrimination have been brought to the media spotlight.  But there are also deeper, more implicit issues embedded within organizations such as gender stereotyping, implicit bias and even women holding themselves back.

As I walked out of the elevators into the beautiful space provided by Telus Digital for the STEM Panel hosted by Young Women in Business, I couldn’t help but wonder: What am I going to learn today that I don’t already know?

After my pre-event duties as part of the organizing committee, I settled into my seat amongst the crowd which, I happily noted, was very diverse. People of all ages, genders and career paths had come out to listen to the wisdom departed by the panelists.

This, to me, was enough evidence these issues we tend to associate with women actually indirectly affect everyone. It speaks to the importance of having colleagues and friends from all walks of life in one’s support system. At the front of the room sat our accomplished, professional panelists – Dr. Ilana MacDonald, Abhilasha Bhatia, Barbara Robinson and Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang.

Who were the panelists?

Check out these blog posts to learn more about the panelists:

Ruth Fernandez, MAPC

Dr. Ilana MacDonald

Abhilasha Bhatia

Barbara A. Robinson, M.A.Sc., P.Eng.,

Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang

The conversation, moderated by Ruth Fernandez, covered a wide range of topics that ranged from anecdotal experiences of discrimination in the workplace, to tips and strategies on how to overcome these obstacles in the workplace. Amidst jokes about sewage systems, Barbara talked about starting off as an engineer and eventually becoming so good at her job she was able to start a company of her own. That, to me, is the definition of perseverance and her passion for her work is something that I strive to have in my own life.

When the impressively-dressed Dr. Sarah Mayes-Tang mentioned she second guesses the way she dresses out of fear that she won’t be taken seriously, I wanted to stand up and say “hey me too”. As ridiculous as it might seem, it made me realize women tend to think about things that wouldn’t even cross a man’s mind! The conversation continued with Dr. Ilana MacDonald confirming that, “No, all astrophysicists do not act or talk like the guys from the Big Bang Theory”.  Dr. MacDonald went on to discuss all the stereotypes she constantly has to dispel around both astrophysics and being a woman in astrophysics.

While I learned something from each panelist, the one thing that resonated with me the most was when Abhilasha Bhatia was asked how she handles being an introvert in a job that requires collaboration. She gracefully replied, “You don’t have to be loud to do your job, right?”  The applause from the audience was awe-inspiring and reaffirmed for me that there is nothing wrong in being yourself, as you are. I think this is something women especially tend to struggle with and will often change how they behave to fit certain expectations in the workplace. In fact, I have even been told to speak up more during meetings at work because “that’s what great leaders do”.

As I walked out of the event that day, I thought to myself, I should have more discussions about these kinds of topics with both male and female colleagues. I might just surprise myself with all there is to learn and how shared our experiences can be.   

Parting thoughts

The panel noted how everyone, even accomplished women, will suffer from imposter syndrome quite often. They said that we all need to tell each other how great we are doing, and the great job we do everyday, and to recognize each other’s efforts as often as possible.

The panel reinforced the need to have a support network. Whether they are your friends, family or like-minded colleagues, they recommended to rely and uplift one another. They noted that there will be difficult times when you’d want to leave the industry altogether, but that having this support system and sounding board will help you persevere in the field you love.

Learning More

YWiB created a handbook with resources to support you, our community, as you continue to forge ahead and take action in your career. The dropbox link is below:


Please also utilize this folder containing resources from Canada Business Ontario.


You’re welcome to share this information with anyone.

Diversity in the Workplace: Elle Bourne

It's finally here. Our event is sold out! Diversity in the Workplace is taking place tonight at Tangerine our gold sponsor.  Tangerine is known as the bank that helps Canadians save money with award winning client service that has helped over 2 million Canadians grow their savings and live better lives!

Elle Bourne, Strategic HR Business Partner shares insight on Diversity in the Workplace at Tangerine.

What does diversity mean to you?

There are strengths in our differences. Diversity is much more than being tolerant. It is embracing those differences and harnessing them to build an inclusive and top performing place of work where all employees and all viewpoints are valued . Diversity drives innovation and this is critical to a bank like Tangerine that prides itself on being a financial catalyst and disrupter in the banking marketplace.

Have you experienced any challenges with diversity in the workplace? How have you overcome them? Yes I have experienced personal challenges in my past professional life. At the time it was invaluable to have a strong mentor to keep me focused at a higher level an continued to challenge me to show up as the best me, while offering insights on how to navigate the ambiguity around some of the issues.

What is your favourite part of your job? Apart from the people I work with, having variety in my role so that no day is the same is one of the things I enjoy most. The Tangerine environment fosters an openness where a diversity of thought is encouraged and I find it really rewarding to partner with the business and influence them by asking questions. I think Tangerine understands that diversity drives innovation.

See you tonight! There might be tickets at the door ;) If you can't make it, follow Young Women in Business on Twitter and join in on the conversation!

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 Cruz, currently 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. 

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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Diversity in the Workplace: Ask Kayla Greaves

Diversity in the workplace is an extremely important issue in today’s society. Living and working in Toronto, we find ourselves surrounded by diversity on a daily basis which is something that makes our city so refreshing and unique! So what do I mean by diversity? Individuals coming together from different nationalities, races, and religions to form an organization, most importantly, one that values and respects someone’s background and listens to their ideas and opinions. Diversity is one of the keys to success and should be nurtured in the work place, not fought. We had the pleasure of speaking with Kayla Greaves, Lifestyle Editor at the Huffington Post about her personal experiences with diversity in the workplace and how we can continue to promote the importance of diversity.

Why is diversity and inclusion in the office important to you?

As a woman of colour working in media diversity and inclusion is so essential in my everyday work. We need perspectives from as many groups as we can to produce high quality content that can reach a wide variety of audiences. We want our content to be reflective of the diverse Canadian population. And luckily, I can confidently say we have one of, if not the most, diverse newsrooms in Canada. Also, diversity makes potluck days A1.

What are some initiatives either in your current job or past jobs that you have done to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

We are currently working on a new series that will be investigating the experiences of children of immigrant parents in Canada, which I'm really excited about! I'm producing a lot of the video and visual graphic content for the series and also assisting on the editorial side. From day to day I work to attract talent from diverse backgrounds to participate in our videos, or panels etc. and make it my goal to write about underrepresented groups as much as I can.  I'm also a member of the culture club at work where we think ways to celebrate culture and diversity in a way where everyone can enjoy and also learn about other people's heritage.

Do you have a specific experience (that you are comfortable with sharing) that affected your passion for promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Yes. I previously worked for a large company that was not into the idea of diversity at all. The whole office, with the exception of two people (three including me), was primarily white. While I pushed for it, they typically made the excuse that it was too complicated etc. etc. I eventually left and moved on to find a place where I was a better fit.

Grab tickets to Diversity in the Workplace: Panel & Meetup below!

Diversity in the Workplace Panel & Meetup

Why is diversity and inclusion so important? What does diversity mean to you? The definition has so many variations. Diversity is individuals coming together from different nationalities, races, and religions to form an organization. An organization that values individuals, accepts their background, and skill set and respects their ideas is what makes an organization diverse. It is a necessity that creates equal opportunities for everyone, encourages the growth and survival of companies, and brings another mindset and view to our lives driving a high performance culture. With advances in technology and communication, and globalization, diversity is growing the world. According to The Upshot, “Fewer Women Run Big Companies Than Men Named John.” It’s 2016, and while a lot of progress has been to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, there is still a long way to go.

Young Women in Business Toronto (ywibTO) invites you to join us for our “Diversity in the Workplace Panel” where we’ll be discussing the importance of diversity in the workplace, addressing challenges and what steps need to be taken to make a difference.  Speakers include; Arnold Flowers- Director of Account Management at Oracle, James Rubec- Cision, Afrodite Cruz- UofT, Elle Bourne- Tangerine Kayla Greaves-Huffington Post and more. Come join us for a night of networking, snacks and great discussion.

Diversity in the workplace has changed drastically compared to the 1970s with women and minorities playing a much larger part today slowly making it’s way to executive levels on the different boards and CEOs.

Diversity in the Workplace: Panel & Meetup

Wednesday, October 19th from 6:30pm-9:00pm

Location: Tangerine Downtown Cafe, 221 Yonge St, Toronto ON M5B 1M4 Tickets: $15 – Get yours online at (Eventbrite Link).

Save the Date & Stay Connected with us on Facebook!

About Young Women in Business Toronto

Young Women in Business is a non-profit organization connecting ambitious, like-minded women across educational fields, careers and industries. Our events provide leadership skills, and networking opportunities that allow women to achieve success, reach their full potential and be engaged with members in their communities.

For media inquiries, please contact Nathalie Sehgal, nathaliesehgal@gmail.com. For partnership inquiries, please contact Victoria Stacey, victoria.l.stacey@gmail.com .