Sunday, March 14, 2010

How the WISE Steps to Success event came to be - Part 2

Barbara posted earlier this month on "How the WISE Steps to Success event came to be" and I just wanted to add some comments from my perspective.

I had attended quite a few workshops, network events, and career fairs put on by Carleton's Career Development and utilized some of their other services such as resume reviewing and mock interviews. For those of you that have not taken advantage of these, I urge you to do so, they are usually a fun break from school and very useful. Also, if you aren't aware, you maintain free access to these services as alumni, which is awesome. Again, I'd encourage everyone to start attending these events before you graduate though as there are far fewer services offered during the summer and you want to transition into the working world with full confidence in your professional skills.

As I was saying, I had taken part in a lot of these events, but found there was something missing. I often felt like I could use some more specific advice for my discipline of engineering and for being a woman in a male dominated field.

In terms of the gender issue, as an example, I feel like I'm in a different position than my male counterparts when it comes to networking. At a workshop I attended on networking, we were advised to first take a tour of the room to subtly see who was there and who you wanted to meet. However, when I go to an event in my field, I walk into the room and notice immediately that there are only one or two other women in the room and the rest are men. This can be quite intimidating and make you feel self-conscious. It seems like it would be very hard to walk around the room without other people noticing. I know there must be ways to turn this to an advantage, and those are the kinds of tips I was looking for.

Other workshops I'd attended did not have enough time to be customized to each attendee's background. For instance, when it comes to negotiating your salary, someone with a science or engineering degree is in a very different position than someone with a different degree and there are huge differences in starting salaries within the science and engineering disciplines. Furthermore, I was unsure of how a graduate degree should impact my salary expectations.

I had attended a salary negotiation seminar by APEGBC for women in engineering during my undergrad at UBC, and this addressed a lot of issues that I think are important. Woman continue to be underpaid on average as compared to their male equivalents in the engineering fields. I think this is ridiculous nowadays, but I don't believe it is generally intentional or due to discrimination. My understanding of the issue is that women (on average) take a less aggressive approach to negotiating their starting salary and this sets them on a lower course throughout their career. Of course there are other issues that come into play later on, such as taking time off for maternity leave or choosing not to pursue higher paying, more time consuming position, but in terms of entrance salaries fresh out of school, I see no reason why women and men shouldn't be earning equivalent salaries.

So I felt that Carleton could use an event similar to the one I had attended in my undergrad to address these issues. I feel it's important for WISE Carleton members to learn about how to be assertive in the professional world, have confidence in themselves, and earn what they deserve. That's why I approached career services and helped get the ball rolling for what culminated in the WISE Steps to Success event two weeks ago.

I hope those of you that attended enjoyed the event and that all of you make use of the career services offered at Carleton and elsewhere.