March 8 is International Women’s Day. Since 1975, this day has been an opportunity to celebrate women’s contribution and reflect on the progress that still needs to be made in our society.
Several sectors, such as the transportation and technology industries, have been labelled as a “man’s world.” In the United States, only 10% of truck drivers are women, and this figure is only 3.5% in Canada. In a context of labour shortage, there’s a pressing need to increase women’s participation in the trucking industry.
The tech sector paints a similar, though slightly more encouraging picture, with women holding 20% of jobs.
International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us to draw your attention to women’s invaluable contributions in our professional communities. They are committed and inspiring. At ISAAC, we’re proud of the fact that women make up nearly 40% of our staff.
Here are the stories of these talented and passionate ISAAC contributors.
What attracted you to the transportation or technology industry?
Since a young age, I’ve always had an interest in how things work, and wanted to know all the little details of how/why. Technology changes so fast, so there’s always more to learn. Coincidently, my father worked in transportation for 30 years, and I was helping wash trucks shortly after I could walk. Feels like a natural fit.
I’ve always been a fan of video games. When I was young, I dreamed of working as a game programmer. At that time, I never had a computer and I knew nothing about it. It was a challenge for me.
I fell in love with the transportation industry during my hiring process. I discovered that this field is infinitely more tech-driven than I ever imagined. Since I love simplifying complicated stuff, I quickly realized that my contribution to the developing complex solutions could improve the day-to-day lives of users who aren’t necessarily tech savvy.
My interest with technology started when I was a kid, and I got my first computer. My dad showed me how to program in basics! That was a long time ago, but I guess my dad’s excitement with technology got me excited about it too. I’ve worked in the technology sector my whole career. I have always been curious about technology and I enjoy the challenge of this ever-changing environment.
I’ve always been interested in new technology in the computer industry. When I was young, I was surprised that a simple program could simulate the effect of gravity on a balloon. What attracts me the most to this field are all the things made possible through technology.
I started my career in public transit computer systems. I was then drawn to more manual activities, which led me to do picking and in-store work.
I’ve always been passionate about computers and technology. In computer engineering, new technology is developed every day. You have to continually learn and adapt, which is exciting.
I fell in love with the transportation industry early in my career, while working in customer service at a logistics company. Transportation is a dynamic industry, full of challenges, where no two days are ever the same.
I discovered the transportation industry while completing my master’s degree. I was impressed by how quickly new technology evolved and the countless opportunities for innovation. Since my very beginnings in engineering, I wanted to make a real difference on people by promoting road safety and improving the quality of human life.
I’m a very curious person. I was interested in several trades and couldn’t make up my mind. So I made a logical choice that met my need to work in a team, learn and be stimulated intellectually every day. The tech industry was the ideal choice, because it applies to all areas of business.
As a woman, what challenges did you face in your career?
In the early 2000s, the transportation industry was considered a man’s world. As a young woman, I found it difficult to carve out my place as a dispatcher. In order to prove myself, I became a long-haul truck driver. Many people tried to talk me out of it by saying that this wasn’t a job for a woman. At the time, there were few young women on the road in the United States. I’ve experienced discrimination and I’ve had to ignore some derogatory comments. I’ve stood firm to prove that women also belong in this wonderful profession.
One of the challenges is proving that our intellectual abilities have nothing to do with our gender.
I’ve noticed that sometimes it’s easier for men to underscore their achievements and get promotions.
In my experience, we’re slightly underestimated during the first meetings. A woman needs to work harder to be recognized. This is generally due to the lack of women in tech.
Although it wasn’t constant, I regularly had to deal with biases about my skills, since I worked in a male-dominated environment.
I’ve spent time in agriculture, telecommunications, oil and gas, and IT, and there are generally more men than women in the teams I was part of. I’ve also worked in countries where the societal norms for women are different than those in North America. In any of these situations, being aware of and respecting cultural differences is important. Over time perspectives have evolved in these various places and industries, and I’ve been fortunate along the way to work with great people supportive of women in the workplace.
I’ve met men and women with all kinds of personalities, and I’ve had to deal with sexist or inappropriate comments. However, that never stopped me. I stood firm, fine-tuned my comebacks and focused my energy where I could make a difference.
I’ve just started my career. So far, I’ve never faced any challenges related to the fact that I’m a woman.
In some organizations I worked with, there was definitely a male club and, even though I was accepted, I was never really part of it. Thankfully, this has changed in the last few years as organizations are more open to diversity.
What advice would you give to women to help them succeed?
Our work performance speaks for itself. Trust in your abilities.
Stay true to yourself and be authentic in everything you do. Here’s a quote from poet René Char that’s inspired me: “Make your own luck, embrace your happiness and take risks. The more they see you, the more they’ll get used to it.”
To have confidence in our abilities and to push for our point of view to be heard. It’s important not to give up when we know we have solid information, data or evidence and to bring this information to light in a constructive way. We need to raise our hand, participate, have some grit and courage.
Be prepared. Know what you want and what you’re worth, and go for it!
Trust in yourself. Keep learning every day. Dare to get out of your comfort zone and ask for more responsibility.
To help women succeed in the transportation industry, I would tell them to believe in themselves, go for it and, above all, not give up at the first obstacle. Women bring a lot to the industry. They’re innovative, professional and help improve safety. Their contribution improves the image of transportation and encourages other women to follow suit.
Never give up. Never forget that you don’t just influence your family and colleagues, but also inspire the next generation of girls who are reluctant to enter a field full of challenges for a woman.
Whatever career you choose, be confident, bring your knowledge and improve your skills. Never miss an opportunity to learn; take them all. Knowledge is power. Support each other. We all experience the same difficulties, so if some of us succeed, it paves the way for others to do the same.
The tech industry is a great field. Don’t be anyone’s doormat!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and share your ideas.
Be confident in yourself, and in what you bring to the table as an individual. Characteristics that make a person successful are not defined by gender.
What woman do you admire?
I admire my grandmother a lot. She’s an example of strength, perseverance and love.
I admire several women who have broken stereotypes and enabled me to believe in myself and go against the grain work in the exciting field of transportation. In particular, my mother rose through the ranks of a multinational company at a time when women didn’t really work outside the home, let alone in senior management positions.
I could tell you about Dian Fossey, Mother Teresa, Lady Gaga and many others. But in a business setting, Katherine Johnson comes to mind. She was an American mathematician, engineer and physicist who made her way into the aviation industry at a time when it counted very few women. She’s always inspired me, because throughout my career, I’ve also made choices that have often led me into teams where I was the only woman.
At the top of my list I would have women trailblazers like Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington.
I think of the Ruth Bader Ginsburgs and Malala Yousafzais of this world, whether they’re from our century or older times, who’ve blazed or are blazing paths through their perseverance. Those who’ve used their privilege and positions of power to make a difference and improve the lives of those most in need. I’m also thinking of Dr. Lucille Teasdale and all the women who, in their daily lives, contribute to improving our society through actions that sometimes go unnoticed.
I admire all the women who’ve made it so that today I can do what I am passionate about, enabled me to pursue higher education, and paved the way for women in the tech industry, particularly in tech product development.
The woman I admire most is my mother. She taught me that I mustn’t limit myself in life because I’m a woman. She also taught me to give my all in everything I do to be successful.
My mother. After raising her children, she struggled to complete her university studies as an adult while also working. She’s an example of going above and beyond!
I admire women who’ve made or are making a difference; women who’ve created a more sustainable place for us in our society. I also admire all the men who believed, helped, supported and loved them for who they were.
Since I was a child, I’ve admired Fatima Al Fihria, the founder of the world’s oldest university, “Qarawiyyin,” in 859, in my hometown of Fez. She had a great impact in a male-dominated environment by promoting learning and scientific development.