What would you say to young girls who are interested in pursuing careers in STEM?
The world needs more engineers! There are many challenges awaiting young engineers, it’s a fascinating profession and you are the ones holding the solutions. Of course, I am biased, but I think a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering is a great undergraduate degree if you want to be a problem solver because it’s all about finding innovative solutions to society’s biggest problems. There are so many different paths that you can take as an engineer; we work in many fields, such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and aerospace, and this degree will open all kinds of doors for young girls.
Why did you agree to become the Diversity and Inclusion Sponsor at WSP?
I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to foster the necessary change that we want to see in our industry. I accepted the Sponsor role because I know that our Global President and CEO, Alexandre L’Heureux, believes in the importance and truly sees the value of diversity and inclusion. For him, it is not a matter of political correctness and he knows that there is a gap in our business. I look forward to supporting him and working with our leaders to build the “teams of tomorrow”. These diverse teams will provide fresh perspectives, leading to innovative solutions that will ultimately help society thrive.
What is your first objective in this role?
I first want to acknowledge what WSP has already done around D&I. With a Gender Balance initiative launched in 2016 and ambitious goals set out in our 2019-2021 Global Strategic Plan, we have begun the necessary work to ensuring that women are given the opportunities they deserve within the industry. However, women are just one facet of diversity & inclusion; my role is to ultimately help engender the large-scale diversity that is needed in STEM fields.
One of my main objectives in this role is to work with our regions to look at how we can diversify our leadership teams, because real change starts at the top. In the long-term, D&I needs to be woven into the criteria for building our project teams and management teams; leaders need to look at where opportunities for development can be provided. A career is not a ladder, it’s a subway map. We need to nurture diversity from within our organization, giving everyone the opportunities that they deserve. This may take them to a higher position or even a different team within the organization. In other words, we need to have a wider view of development and promote diverse candidates from within our company, rather than simply hiring from the outside.
I often hear that “if we put a woman in charge, she needs to be the right one, she needs to deliver and she can’t fail because it will make things harder for women to take on leadership positions”. I agree that we need to put competent candidates in charge, male or female, but we need to stop watching women's failures so carefully. When a man in charge fails or loses money, we never hesitate for a second to replace him by another man. Women should be treated the same way. I would love to see progress towards removing this double standard.
Knowing what you know today, what advice would you give your past self?
I’d say have fun! Choose projects that you believe in and don’t compromise on your core values. Hard work is not hard work if you are passionate about what you do. When you work on a project that makes a difference in the world, you want to do more. It is very gratifying work for everyone on the team.
I would also tell myself to make sure that you are taking care of your mental and physical well-being. Juggling a career and a personal life can sometimes get overwhelming, so make sure to unplug and recharge your batteries from time to time.
The theme of INWED 2020 is Shaping the World. In this time of so much change, how do you see women Shaping the World?
I don’t like to generalize, but the way I see women shaping the world is by getting involved in decision-making at their companies. The first step to achieving gender balance in STEM industries is by giving women a seat at the table where major decisions are being made. The doors are open, we just need to step through them!
*In April 2021, Marie-Claude Dumas was appointed as President & Chief Executive Officer, Canada