Want a successful business? Hire a balanced workforce
Businesses function better when they have a more equal mix of employees – especially in construction, sciences, and engineering.
Donna Clark told a gathering of Islanders last week that the STEM fields (sciences, technology, engineering, and math) are not balanced in terms of gender - and other criteria like race– but would be better off if they were.
“People in engineering and similar fields are convinced by evidence,” said Clark, Martimes coordinator of the Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology (WinSETT Centre). “The numbers show that when you increase the diversity in a workplace, you improve employee retention, you improve innovation, and you improve performance by a number of other measures. It makes sense numerically to be diverse and to fight back against biases and inequality.”The morning-long presentation was organized by UPEI’s Faculty of Sustainable Engineering, the provincial government’s Interministerial Women’s Secretariat, and Engineers PEI.
National numbers show that the trades, science, and technology sectors are not balanced in terms of gender:
- only 2.6 per cent of all apprenticeship completions in 13 predominant skilled trades were women in 2013;
- women are only 3.6 per cent of the construction trades workforce;
- women are currently less than 25 per cent of the ICT (information and communication technology) workforce.
- in engineering programs, females peaked in percentage of undergraduate enrolments at 20.6 percent in 2001, dipped but has slowly climbed back to 19.1 per cent in 2014; and
- only 13 per cent of the engineering workforce and less than 12 per cent of professionally accredited engineers are women.
Minister Paula Biggar, who is minister responsible for the Status of Women, told the group the provincial government is committed to ensuring a fair and equitable workplace.
“Being part of a male-dominated industry is not only achievable, but it is also imperative so that we can move forward together in a more inclusive, gender balanced society,” she said. “Roles cannot be seen as roles for men or for women, and we all must work to make this happen.”
Clark said biases are seldom deliberate; they creep in and can be reinforced by workplace culture. The best way to deal with this is consciously and deliberately.
“If the people at your board table all look and think the same, that’s a weakness,” she said. “You can address that weakness by making sure that you take steps to remove barriers and encourage diversity – through hiring, through mentorship, and through opportunities for greater challenge and responsibility.”
Government policy makers and community leaders are being encouraged to consider gender and other diversities when creating programs and policies.