The Female Advantage
Marg Latham, P.Eng. believes that the engineering companies who support women have a competitive advantage.
Marg Latham, P.Eng. is a passionate advocate for increasing women’s role and profile in the science, engineering, trades and technology (SETT) fields. She is also a member of the Board of WinSETT Centre, the Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology. She spent many years working in consulting engineering and is now president of Aqua Libra Consulting, a management consulting firm based in Vancouver.
Q. Why does gender diversity matter in engineering?
Canada’s changing economy and aging labour force have resulted in skills shortages within the SETT sector. While women make up more than half the nation’s population, they are still largely under-represented in these fields.
Canada needs a larger, technically skilled workforce. Women are entering post-secondary education programs at a steadily increasing pace, representing the largest percentage of new entrants overall. An employer who supports women in the workplace will have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining other highly qualified individuals from an increased pool of talent.
Furthermore, today’s workplaces are highly integrated with technology and are constantly adopting new ways of thinking and working. Studies show diverse groups are less likely to exhibit “groupthink,” and thus they generate more ideas and creative solutions. Researchers have found that including more female employees can enrich an organization’s capacity for innovation by bringing different life experiences, perspectives and values, as well as communication, management and leadership styles. When a workforce reflects the diversity of the population it serves, the organization can reach its maximum innovation potential. And when it reflects the diversity of its client base it will be better equipped to understand the needs of their market and identify new opportunities within it.
This is true for governance as well. The Conference Board of Canada studied corporations with at least two women on their board for a period of six years. The study concluded that these companies ranked higher in both revenue and profits than those with all male boards.
Organizations invest significant resources in the recruitment, training and development of their employees, yet women leave SETT workplaces for other careers in greater numbers than men. Creating workplaces that support, develop and retain female employees provides a return on the organization’s investment in valuable human resources.
The business case for gender diversity is clear. However, the path to achieving it is not always so clear.
Q. How can Winsett Centre help?
Winsett Centre, or the Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology, is a not-for-profit organization that works
through partnerships and collaboration to advance the career success of women at all levels in SETT fields. Its Leadership Program delivers professional development workshops tailored to women in their early or mid-careers. The growing list of modules includes: Becoming Leaders: An Introduction to Leadership Skills and Strategies; Effective Communication; Negotiating for Success; Navigating the ‘Politics’ of the Workplace; and Networks, Mentors and Sponsors. More than 75 workshops have been delivered from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Victoria, B.C. to over 850 women. WinSETT Centre also works with managers and leaders to build a positive workplace culture within their firms, one that enables all employees to contribute their best, through its Respectful and Inclusive Workplace module. cce
For more information on WinSETT visit http://www.winsett.ca/ For information about the Women in SETT Leadership Program, contact Susan Hollett at firstname.lastname@example.org