International Women’s Day in Canada celebrates the achievements of immigrant women

International Women’s Day in Canada celebrates the achievements of immigrant women
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After developing the first mathematical model to predict the movement of icebergs during her stay at Memorial University to study and complete her master’s degree, Egyptian-born Mona Shahwan El-Tahan reached for the stars.

And she got pretty close. 

The Canadian immigrant helped develop technology that reduced friction on the Canadarm, the robotic arm of the International Space Station. 

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It took El-Tahan only eight years after first arriving in Newfoundland in Atlantic Canada to found InCoreTec Inc., a St. John’s-based research and development and consulting firm whose engineers, scientists and software developers offer services to local, national, and international clients. Today, she is still the company’s president.

She is also still a director emeritus of the non-profit she founded, WISE NL (Women in Science and Engineering), which works to boost the participation level of women in science, technology, engineering, and math, often described as the STEM fields, in Newfoundland.

International Women’s Day is celebrated every March 8 

In recognition of International Women’s Day, El-Tahan is one of many women profiled on the Canadian government’s Women of Impact in Canada website. 

In Canada, immigrant women can and do often accomplish amazing things in all spheres of endeavour, empowered by an educational system and culture which encourages girls and women to excel in their chosen fields.

After arriving in Canada as a child of only 11 years old and a refugee, Guatemala City-born Karina Hayat studied biology at Vancouver’s Douglas College before founding Prizm Media, a digital media and technology company that connects chronically ill patients with needed healthcare products and services, with her husband, Zeeshan Hayat. Today, she is the company’s president. 

Despite the great strides made by immigrant women in Canada, they are still unfortunately less likely to land executive jobs and sit on corporate boards than Canadian-born employees or immigrant men, reveals a report by Statistics Canada.

And those immigrant women most likely to land such coveted positions still come from predominately-Caucasian countries.

Immigrant women are still under-represented in C-suites and boardrooms of Canadian businesses

In its first socioeconomic profile of immigrant women at admission who later landed management gigs in Canada, Immigrant Women Among Board Directors And Officers: From Admission In Canada To Executive Roles, released late last year, the statistical and demographic services agency revealed these women tend to hold lower-level executive jobs and be paid less than others.

“Despite decades of gains in the workplace, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership and decision-making positions,” noted the statistical and demographic services agency.

“Women who reach an executive role in their careers tend to hold lower-level positions than men, or ones with less decision-making authority—patterns that are reflected among immigrant women executives.”

In his book, Why Men Earn More, Dr. Warren Farrell outlined roughly a decade ago 25 life choices women tend to make more often than men which results in them being paid less than their male counterparts. According to Farrell, those choices often lead women to have more balanced and happier lives.

There are no laws in effect in Canada precluding women or immigrants from holding any executive position in the private or public sector or favouring men. And Statistics Canada’s first socioeconomic profile of immigrant women working as executives in Canada does not offer any explanations for its findings.

Statistics Canada only reports that immigrant women were the least likely to contribute on a board of directors, with 48 per cent of immigrant women working as board directors and 52 per cent as officers. That compares to 65 per cent for Canadian-born men, 61 per cent for immigrant men and 53 per cent for Canadian-born women.

“As officers, immigrant women were less likely to occupy higher top-level roles,” revealed Statistics Canada.

Women are less likely to immigrate to Canada as principal applicants under economic programs

“For example, immigrant women officers were more than two times less likely to work as president of a corporation than immigrant men officers, while immigrant women officers were more than two times more likely than immigrant men officers to hold a secretarial position.”

The Statistics Canada profile of these female immigrant execs does indicate that immigrant women executives were more likely to be admitted in Canada as a dependant or spouse under the economic category than the immigrant men executives.

“Economic immigrants can be admitted as a principal applicant or as a spouse or dependent. To be admitted as the principal applicant, the individual must meet certain selection criteria, while a spouse or dependant is not assessed under selection criteria,” notes Statistics Canada.

“They are automatically admitted with the principal applicant.”

Immigrant women executives were more than two times less likely than immigrant men executives to arrive in Canada as principal applicants while being more likely to be admitted as a spouse or dependent economic applicant, notes Statistics Canada.

When immigrant women did make it to the executive level, they were roughly four times as likely to have been born in the United States or the United Kingdom than other immigrant women in Canada.

“Differences were noticed between immigrant women executives and the broad population of immigrant women when examining the top five countries of birth,” notes Statistics Canada.

“For example, immigrant women executives were about four times more likely to be born in the United States or the United Kingdom than the total population of immigrant women. Specifically, the United States … ranked first as a birth country among immigrant women executives, followed by the United Kingdom … China … Hong Kong … and France.”

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