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.

League of Extraordinary Young Women: Eva Wong

Eva is a Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at Borrowell, a Canadian fintech company that offers personal loans, free credit scores and personalized product recommendations. With a background in management consulting and business development, Eva has worked at Maple Leaf Foods, Oliver Wyman and a number of not-for-profit organizations. She has studied or worked in the US, Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Europe.

Eva was named one of "9 Canadian Women Changing The Game" by Elle Canada magazine, one of "30 Women in Canadian Tech Worth Following" by BetaKit and a finalist for "Fintech Woman of the Year" by LendIt, the world’s biggest show in lending & fintech.

Eva holds degrees from Harvard University and Queen’s School of Business. She enjoys food blogs and baking projects with her two kids.

Describe who you work for and why it's important to you.

I'm part of the team at Borrowell, a Canadian financial technology company. We help Canadians understand their credit so they can make the best financial decisions for their personal situation. We offer credit scores for free, personal loans and other product recommendations.

How does your role empower you?

At Borrowell, we're all empowered to think and act like owners. From setting our personal goals and contributing to our company-level objectives, to getting involved in interviewing and hiring new team members, it's very empowering to have a say in what we're doing as a company. Being at a small, fast-paced company also gives all of us lots of new learning opportunities, which is also really empowering.

What advice do you have to other young women looking to get involved in your field of work?

Do your research - use the products, go to tech events, meet with people who work in the field. Then, just go for it! Apply for the job you want, reach out to companies you're interested in, or start something yourself!

Who is your biggest role model, why?

That's a tough one. I don't have just one. I admire Sheryl Sandberg and a few others for their careers and what they've been able to accomplish. I have friends I admire for their patience with their kids, and others I admire for their faith and spirituality.

What book do you recommend every young professional should read?

I'm a big fan of "Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose" by Tony Hsieh, the founder of online shoe company Zappos. And I'm currently reading Adam Grant's "Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success" which I'm enjoying a lot.

If you could go back to your 16 year old self, what would you say?

Don't worry about what you'll be when you grow up - you don't have to pick just one thing.

Why do you think groups like YWiB are important?

Groups like YWiB are really important. I once heard someone say, "If you can't see it, you can't be it." I think there's some truth in that. I don't think it ever crossed my mind to become a tech entrepreneur when I was younger, and I think part of it is because I never saw anyone like me doing that. So planting the seeds of what opportunities are out there is really great.

What can our readers do to help you?

One thing you can do that would help me and yourself is to get your credit score at Borrowell! It's free, it only takes two minutes and it won't affect your score. It's the first step to understanding where you stand.

The other thing readers can do is look at our job postings, and apply or recommend a friend if there's anything that fits! One of our goals is to build a gender-balanced team, and the more women we can get interested in what we're building, the better