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Three Industries Poised for Growth Where Women Are in Limited Supply and High Demand

A look at the opportunities and skills required in three industries where demand for women is high and supply is still low.

By Arina Kharlamova


Women make up nearly half of the labour force in Canada, but less than 22 percent of us are employed as professionals in STEM fields. Still, thanks to an increasing number of role models, the innovative nature of these industries, and the need for talent at the fastest growing companies in the world, women are making headway. We’re thriving in technology in particular.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings, yet U.S. universities are expected to produce only enough qualified graduates to fill 29 percent of these jobs. There is clearly a need. But are women preparing for this opportunity? The number of women graduating from mathematics and computer and information sciences programs in Canada dropped from 35 percent in 1990 to 30 percent in 2008. There is a decrease in women’s participation in technology, despite openings and opportunities for management and executive levels—a trend that means missed opportunity.

Governments are on a mission to reverse this reality and they’ve targeted women: Status of Women Canada has made the encouragement, training, and recruitment of women in STEM fields a program called Opening Doors: Economic Opportunities for Women. It provides funding for a stakeholder of up to $250,000 over a period of three years based on their programs supporting women in STEM fields. Winners have included the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, Communitech Corp., Digital Nova Scotia and Innovation and Technology Association of Prince Edward Island Inc.

“I would encourage women to look at technology not just from a corporate perspective, but also from an entrepreneurial one,” says Lally Rementilla, Vice-President Finance and Administration of Toronto-based software company Nulogy Corp. “The barrier to entry for entrepreneurs is relatively low compared to other industries. You don’t need a lot of capital expenditure to start something innovative; you just need smart people,” adds Rementilla, who is on the board of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC), and an investor in/advisor to female STEM entrepreneurs.

The career prospects in STEM aren’t confined to technical skills, but exist in the design, development, marketing, sales and administration parts of the sector as well. Rementilla, for example, depended heavily on the marketing team when she was Vice-President of Finance at Lavalife Corp., an online dating company—“there’s no use in inventing anything if you can’t market it,” she says.

As a co-chair on the Diversity Committee at ITAC, Rementilla works to make the industry more attractive to women and lead more of us to leadership positions within it. When hiring at Nulogy, “I would welcome women who don’t have a technology background, but are very good problem solvers,” she says. “Though some technological competency is of course expected, the ability to communicate and collaborate with a variety of cultures is also a strong ‘have’ for someone looking to infiltrate STEM fields.” Due to the collaborative nature of tech companies, the knowledge of more than one language and the ability to work remotely can set you apart.

Why it’s an opportunity
A projected labour shortage of 70 percent will mean job choice.

In-demand skills
Bi- or tri-lingualism, design, operations.

STEM trailblazers
Janet Kennedy President, Microsoft Canada. Kennedy increased business by 33 percent working as a Regional Vice-President at Microsoft USA. More than half of Microsoft’s Canadian Leadership Team positions are women.

Sally Daub President and CEO, ViXS. Under Daub’s reign, ViXS, a fast-growing semiconductor company, had a 1,000 percent increase in revenue. Daub took ViXS public in 2013.

Mandi Shapansky President and CEO, Xerox Canada. Shapansky has led the $22-billion global enterprise since 2010.


In 2010, the World Health Organization announced that, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population resided in an urban area. That urban explosion has played out in Canada too: according to Statistics Canada, Ontario’s population is projected to grow 28.6 percent to 17.4 million, by 2036. The Greater Toronto Area’s population is projected to increase from 6.4 million to 8.9 million during that time.

Of the many issues this raises—social services, education and housing, for starters—transportation is key and has to become a priority. If it doesn’t, the repercussions go beyond post-hockey game gridlock and rush-hour congestion: business growth depends on unfettered and efficient transportation of goods and people.

That’s why transportation in Canada has to become “an investment, not a commodity,” according to Nadine Bernard, Head of Marketing, Communications and Public Relations at Nova Bus, an offshoot of Volvo Group Canada. She is currently working on a new agreement between Nova Bus and the Société de transport de Montréal that is going to electrify the city’s public transit system—and lessen its ecological footprint at the same time. Nadine believes that affordable, accessible and realistic transportation is part of “designing a successful, workable, liveable city.” How do we capitalize on that?

Data from HRSDC and StatsCan shows railway/transportation supervisors, and railway conductor as two of the top 10 growing careers in Canada and these technical and applied positions are not the only ones that will be booming. Demand for technicians, human resource specialists, and management positions is increasing as well. (Quebec invested $12 million in Nova Bus from an overall $516-million budget for the electrification of the province’s transportation, including electric taxis, light-rail lines, electric buses.)

“Multi-billion dollar transportation investments are transforming the GTA region and the opportunity for women has never been greater. The increased visibility of women in non-traditional roles—from frontline to management—has been enriched by the diversity of disciplines the industry embraces, including planning, legal, finance, construction and investment.” Leslie Woo Vice-President, Policy, Planning and Innovation, Metrolinx

In 2011 there were 843,400 people employed in the transportation sector. “From road and railway construction to station and transit operations to corporate boardrooms, women are starting to make a move in all aspects and all levels of the transportation industry,” says Kathy Haley, President of the Union Pearson Express, a division of Metrolinx. The Union Pearson Express is an express rail service being built between Union Station in downtown Toronto and Toronto Pearson Airport. It is expected to eliminate 1.2 million cars from the road in its first year of operation, as well as transport 5,000 people per day to and from Canada’s biggest transportation hubs.

Why it’s an opportunity
Government investment in transportation and infrastructure will mean more projects, more contracts, and new jobs.

In-demand skills
Urban planning, government relations, finance.

Transportation trailblazers
Kathy Haley President, Union Pearson Express (Metrolinx). Haley is leading the $456-million express rail service linking Union Station in downtown Toronto to Pearson Airport.

Nadine Bernard Marketing Director, Nova Bus (Volvo). The first woman to reach her position at Nova Bus, Bernard promotes Volvo’s Mobility Program in Montréal, working to get emission-free buses up and running for a trial period in 2015.

Lisa Tuningley President, T-Rail Products Inc. Since 2010, Tuningley has supplied refurbished surplus rail products in an effort to recycle the “scrap” material. Within three years, T-Rail has grown to 12 employees and approximately $16 million in revenue.


If there is one field that society has trouble reinventing in its imagination, it’s the skilled trades. Apparently, women don’t belong in mines and heels are too feminine for the boardrooms of oil-and-gas companies. This is, of course, ridiculous—but more importantly, it’s a stance the industry can’t afford for much longer.

This year, one out of every five job postings in Canada will target the skilled trades. The construction industry will need to recruit an estimated 319,000 new workers by 2020 due to retirement and expansion of the industry. The mining industry will need 112,000 new workers by 2020. This is good news for everyone, but especially for women who traditionally have been locked out of the sector.

“There’s a huge opportunity for entrepreneurship here—to be your own boss and create opportunities—that traditional career paths for women simply don’t provide,” says Sandeep Tatla, labour law lawyer and Chief Diversity Officer at the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).

Tatla is new to her position, which was recently mandated by the Ontario government to be created. The OCOT is a regulatory body that sets standards for the entire industry in Ontario. This position is the first of its kind in North America, because it is looking at diversity within the organization, the sector, and the province. “I get to work with different stakeholders, unions, employers, members, agencies, and levels of government to figure out the barriers and how we can promote the trades as a great option for women.”

The sector has an abysmal record in terms of women’s representation in executive positions and on boards. According to the 2013 Catalyst Census of the boards of Financial Post’s Top 500 Companies, mining, quarrying and oil-and-gas extraction came in last (with 7 percent of board positions being held by women); construction at 10 percent. “There are some companies in skilled trades that have no women on boards and no women executives,” says Alex Johnston, Executive Director at Catalyst Canada. “Maybe you could have gotten away with that 10 years ago, but not anymore. Not one woman? Really?”

While the indignation is justified, the inequality means future opportunity: companies simply won’t survive if they ignore half the working population indefinitely.

“It is not the careers that have to adapt, but rather society’s views of these careers. We need a societal shift. We need parents, grandparents, teachers and peers to be more supportive of women choosing careers in science, engineering and technology, as well as trades. These are excellent careers that will enable women to become economically independent in their futures.” Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal Chair, Women in Science and Engineering, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Why it’s an opportunity
When the baby boomers retire, 40 percent of current tradespeople will need to be replaced.

In-demand skills
Problem-solving, teamwork and creativity.

Skilled-trade trailblazers

Kelsey Ramsden President, Belvedere Place Development. Working on a mix of private and government projects, Ramsden’s $50-million construction company is responsible for building roads, bridges and dams in Western Canada and the Caribbean.

Zoe Yujnovich President and CEO, Iron Ore Canada. Yujnovich is the youngest person and first woman to reach this title at the company. She is also the first woman to be elected as Chair of the Mining Association of Canada Board of Directors.

Trudy Curran Senior Vice-President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Canadian Oil Sands Ltd. Curran has worked at Canadian Oil Sands joint venture, Syncrude, one of the largest oil sands mining entities in the world, since 2002.