On February 27th, the Vancouver School of Economics Undergraduate Society held their Gender in the Workplace conference, featuring experts in various professional fields discussing today’s gender issues and changing the face of leadership in the workplace.
We asked the VSEUS organizers why this topic was the one VSEUS chose to focus on. Saskia, VP Administration of the VSEUS, reported: “After attending a lecture on gender in the workplace by Jill Abramson at UBC last semester, I realized how much I don’t know about this topic. It is increasingly talked about in the media and in research, but I still didn’t have a good understanding of the specific challenges female leaders face or how these can be practically resolved.
Yet the issue of gender in the workplace is very relevant to many students, as we will soon be entering the labour force. On a more immediate and personal level, I also noticed that out of the 26 courses I’ve taken at UBC so far, I’ve only had 2 female professors. Economics is still a male-dominated profession, making gender equity an especially important issue for VSEUS to address.
We talked over our ideas as a conference organizing team and quickly decided that this would be a valuable topic to choose for VSEUS’s annual conference.” – Saskia Vaisey
The morning began with a session on the Economics of Workplace Gender Issues with Nicole Fortin, a labour economist at the Vancouver School of Economics who spoke on the gender pay gap and the evolution of women’s labour force participation. The sessions following included experiences with gender in the workplace and changing the face of leadership. Michelle Grant from Ernst&Young explained that, in order to illuminate the path to leadership, women have to define opportunities for advancement, take part in leadership development programs, and set leadership pipeline programs and targets, while making role models visible. She explained that companies need to speed up culture change with progressive corporate policy, since we no longer live in a 9-5 working world. We must build supportive environments by recognizing and rewarding role models.
Barinder Rasode was another force to be reckoned with. As the Director of Social Responsibility for Resource Works Society and a Founder of She Talks Vancouver, she talked about the importance of finding your own personal board of directors. She explained that women focus more on competence, and less on who they are. It’s important to get recognized as who you are and put your name on your work. If it’s going to be great, people are going to push back – but champions never complain because they are too busy getting better.
Overall, this conference gave participants an opportunity to get a glimpse into their future and anticipate some of the challenges women may face along the way. In the spirit of mentorship, learning how successful women were able to navigate their careers served as inspiration and invaluable advice. I can’t wait to see what conferences VSEUS will offer next!
Written and prepared by Nika Moeini, International Relations and Commerce Student, UBCevents Communications Assistant.