Earlier this month, American citizens passed up the opportunity to elect the first female president in U.S. history.
In her concession speech, Secretary Hillary Clinton spoke to ‘all the little girls watching,’ and told them to never give up on their dreams.
“To all the little girls [who] are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams,” Clinton said.
So how do we support our daughters, sisters, and nieces in their quest for success?
And do they believe they can achieve as much as men can?
Clinton’s words resonated with one woman in particular. CKNW’s Niamh Anderson spoke with Jennifer Reynolds, who has built a career for herself by working to inspire young girls across Canada as the founder of Women in Capital Markets.
“I thought the problem was solved when I graduated from university just over 20 years ago. I thought that by the time I reached the age I’m at, that women would, because we’re all educated and we were out in the work force, that we would get there. And as I found throughout my career, women weren’t getting there. We were slowly falling behind in our careers, we weren’t making it past those middle-management roles. And there was a frustration on my part,” she says.
“I think we should be much, much, further ahead than we are on this. I have two daughters and I want to make sure that they have every opportunity to rise into a leadership role, the same opportunity that their brothers have. For me, it is critically important, and I just think it’s time that we fixed this. We can’t just leave this problem for the next generation.”
Encouraging careers in male-dominated fields: science, technology, engineering
Earlier this month, Reynolds held Vancouver’s first ‘Shebiz’ workshop, where she inspired high school students in grades nine to 11 to open their eyes to careers they never thought to pursue.
Reynolds says she wants to see more women pursuing STEM careers. That’s science, tech, engineering and math fields.
Although women comprise the majority of university graduates, Reynolds says women fill just 25 per cent of STEM jobs.
But she wants to change that.
“They’ll meet young professionals that are in those roles, understand what their life looks like, what their work actually is and then ‘how would I get there? What type of a program would I need to take in University?’ So we are just really making that connection for them and being that link between ‘what I’m taking in school’ and ‘where that can lead me in my career,'” Reynolds says.
And the demand for this type of event is high, and only soaring upwards.
“In Toronto where we’ve been doing this for several years, we had 350 women here, when we opened up registration it was sold out within 45 minutes. In our first year in Vancouver, exceedingly well, we were over 200 in Vancouver. If I had more funding, I could do this multiple times in each city, and I think we’d still have lots of demand for this type of program, we really, really do need it,” she says.
Reyonolds started her business 21 years ago and has dedicated her life to inspiring women to achieve success.
She believes that more innovative education programs are needed in Vancouver to inspire young girls to enter into the world of entrepreneurship.
How are current curriculum requirements stacking up?
But is there enough support and leadership already on the curriculum, or is she facing this battle alone?
“Right now, it’s up to people like myself and other professionals to hopefully spend a bit of time and try to get in and be talking to schools and being role models and making that connection. It is hard for teachers to do it because they don’t necessarily know what all those jobs are out there and it’s hard for them to have the time to organize getting professionals to come into the school, so I think part of it is updating the educational system a little bit and making sure we incorporate some real practical courses and programming around jobs later on,” she says.
“Think about Vancouver and how they’ve incorporated coding into their curriculum. I think that’s fantastic, and I think we need to think more along those lines of what are the skills of the 21st century because what I learned in school many years ago, in many cases, is not relevant today and I think we need to be thinking about that. I think we need to make it practical and we need to make sure our educational system is reflective of what we need in the future.”
Reynolds says it’s not enough to see women entering the STEM world.
She wants to see them rise to the top.
“I think the leadership of corporate Canada is extremely important. And I think that sometimes, particularly when you’re young, you don’t make the tie, of why would I want to sit in the CEO chair, what difference does it make if we have no women in CEO chairs or we have a bunch of women in CEO chairs? I believe it makes a huge difference, because gender diversity drives better performance, there’s all kinds of research around the fact that if you have better gender diversity in leadership, your company does better… I really believe women have different ideas and those ideas aren’t having the impact in the world around us right now because we’re just not sitting in those leadership roles,” Reynolds says.