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Lighting the Way Forward
Diversity and Inclusion at SMP

Lighting the Way Forward

Diversity and Inclusion at SMP

To recognize International Women’s Day this year, SMP surveyed several of our female staff members about their experience and recommendations for women looking to enter the electrical engineering field – and those surrounding it, including marketing and administration. Coming from a wide range of backgrounds and experience with the field, their answers paint a picture of the changing industry over the years – and point us to the areas we have room to improve in.

While the focus has been on women for the month of March, the conversations don’t just take place once a year. We encourage you to continue the conversation about gender parity, and see this campaign as a reminder to reflect on how you can continue to support and uplift the women in your life. To begin, consider starting a conversation (perhaps using the questions below as guidelines) with one of the women in your industry – her answers and suggestions may surprise you!

Here is a selection of answers received from our female staff members in response to our survey.

What got you into the field?

“I have always had a passion for architecture and design, and also love "creating", so the construction/design industry was a no-brainer for me!” - Eleni Christos

“I knew that I was always going to pursue something in the maths or sciences. After trying a couple of other programs in University, I ended up in Engineering. I have experience in two very different industries but the feeling of pride when contributing to the built environment is what led me to where I am today.” - Helen Hiloma

“After I finished high school I didn't know what I wanted to do. There were two brand new courses being offered at the college that were interesting to me. The new courses were Computer Aided Drafting Technology and Computer Science. I took the Computer Aided Drafting Technology course not really knowing what I was getting into. Good thing it turned out I liked it!” - Kelly Colclough

“I come from a family full of left-handed engineers, it seemed like the logical choice to follow suit as a token lefty! In all seriousness, I pursued engineering and in my 4th year took an elective course that led me to being hired by SMP, I've been here in the industry ever since.” - Kelsey Anderson

“My background is in Fine Arts, and marketing embodies a lot of the same things I loved about fine arts in the service of bigger organizations, including storytelling, visual design, and creative problem solving. The construction industry I came into through a summer job that turned into a long term role; I stayed because I like the people in the industry, who tend to be honest, hardworking, and straightforward.” - Miranda Mewhort

What’s your favourite part of your job?

“Learning to work with the unique structure of each building and design an intuitively used system. Essentially problem solving and making an end product that flows nicely, easy to use.“ - Briana Pink

“I like doing the entire project. From the design, to setting up the project and doing the drafting in both Revit and AutoCAD. I really enjoy working in Revit and AutoCAD and don't want to give that up.” - Kelly Colclough

“I love that no two jobs are the same, each comes with their own set of challenges, and being able to work with a variety of people from various industries in a collaborative way.” - Kelsey Anderson

“Working on projects with my coworkers!” - Kristin Lung

“Telling stories! I get to talk about all the cool things SMP is a part of, and how our staff bring their unique input to (often lifechanging) projects. It's a pretty special role to play and my team makes it easy to show them off!” - Miranda Mewhort

“I love that no day is exactly the same. Though there are challenges, changing deadlines and priorities, I have a kick-ass team and I love collaborating with them.” - Natalie Tooley

“Associating with architects, getting to be involved in the interior design through lighting design, and getting to see the beauty of my design after it’s built.” - Paula Pustanyk

“Helping bring the architect's and owner's ideas to life through light.” - Tanya Steeves

What’s your advice for women looking to enter your role?

“Be confident. Back up your confidence with fact-based knowledge. Do the legwork, come with solutions to your questions, but ask the questions. Write everything down, don't ask the same questions twice, and learn people’s approach to problems, don't just memorize solutions.” - Briana Pink

“Everything is challenging when you first start. Take on any obstacle that comes your way because with every challenge you overcome, it makes you that much stronger and more confident for it. Don’t be discouraged by your failures, instead use them as learning experiences.” - Helen Hiloma

"I would advise them not to be discouraged because it appears that it is predominantly a man’s field, and to follow their interests. The technical field has improved since I came to it 25 years ago, and there are many more roles for women.” - Irena Bobbett

“My advice is to be strong! You are just as smart and capable of any of your male counterparts. Uphold your own personal morals and values in your everyday work practice, and prepare to be humbled in new learning situations. Be prepared to battle to have your voice heard at the table, but don't let that keep you from speaking your opinions and voicing your concerns.” - Kelsey Anderson

“Build a strong network of people who truly support you. Building meaningful relationships with colleagues is rewarding on both a personal and professional level.” - Natalie Tooley

“Go to any and all events because you don't know when you will meet the person who will lead you to your dream career. and always be willing to learn something new.” - Tanya Steeves

Any word of encouragement for other women looking at our industry?

“It's scary! But fun. There's always something new to learn or a different way to look at something. We work in a team environment, so you're never stranded, and it's fun to feed off of people’s enthusiasm!! Others love to share their knowledge and experience, so use it. - Briana Pink

“There will be days where you will feel like the pressure is too much to handle. Just stop. Take a breath. And think about all the amazing people your work will help. Whether you work on Healthcare projects, Post-Secondary, multi-family residential (the list goes on)... you have a hand in something amazing! The work is meaningful and tangible, and it fills your cup.” - Eleni Christos

“Don’t think that having or raising a family AND having a career in this industry cannot coexist - because I am proof that they can!” - Helen Hiloma

“We can be as good, if not better, than men in any technical field, as we have unique strengths; for example, we tend to excel in multitasking and organizational skills due to being more involved with multitasking and budgeting while raising a family and working. I would also include strengths of mediating between employees (a.k.a. mediating between siblings) and praising and raising company culture. Understanding how praise works is an important part of raising young kids, but also validating employees and their efforts, and to what extent this improves company culture. And we shouldn’t forget that a higher percentage of women are creative - which ties all the things mentioned above together.” - Irena Bobbett

“This is a challenging but rewarding career. It is well worth the hard work.” - Kelly Colclough

“I definitely think that what you're willing to put in is what you get out of it. I can only speak for SMP because it's the first company I have worked for in this industry but I see how hard my female coworkers work and I see the respect that they gain because of this. I think as long as you're willing to work hard, you can achieve really great things.” - Kristin Lung

What does “choose to challenge” (the International Women’s Day Campaign slogan for 2021) mean to you?

“Don't be passive in your life. Go for what you want, challenge yourself, and be flexible in how you get there!” - Briana Pink

“To me, choose to challenge means to challenge the thoughts and actions of those around you. Challenge view points. Challenge historical behaviour. Challenge them to see things from a different perspective. And never give up!” - Eleni Christos

“To me, choose to challenge means standing up to gender bias and inequality, and bringing to light the barriers that women face in careers that are not gender norms. Choosing to challenge means choosing to recognize the existence of these barriers, and to contribute to tearing those barriers down by celebrate women's achievements and focusing on helping them to reach their career goals.” - Kelsey Anderson

“I think it means to go for your goal even if it may seem unachievable or uncommon/outside the norm of common workplace. Choose to work towards it and challenge it.” - Kristin Lung

“Challenge the status quo - don't let anyone hold you back from doing the things you want to do and being the person you want to be. Challenge the preconceived notions of others - and yourself - and change the narrative.” - Miranda Mewhort

“Choose to challenge means choose to fight to remove looking at our positions through the lens of gender. We all deserve equal opportunity regardless of our genetic makeup, the preference should strictly be based on our skills. To identify ourselves as female within our career is antiquated, we need to portray a different message. You are not a “female engineer” you are an “engineer”, equal to your peers, with equal identity. You are not a “female leader” you are a “leader”, you are not a “woman of technology”, you are a “technologist”. Choose to challenge those who measure your value and skills by your gender, help eradicate the outdated stigma that gender should influence your career growth and capabilities.” - Paula Pustanyk

“To not give up when you think someone’s idea is better. Although sometimes someone else’s idea will be the better option it doesn’t mean you don’t get to give your input. Never give up and always give your best. To choose to challenge will only make you wiser! Because sometimes we win and sometimes we learn!” - Paulina Martinez

“Choose to challenge yourself. Your self talk, your vision, your future.” - Tanya Steeves

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