On March 8 we celebrated International Women’s Day, with a key theme this year centred around ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.’

The occasion provides the opportunity to reflect on where our College community is situated on this important issue. What goals have we set for ourselves? Have we been working hard enough to achieve them? What are our aspirations and are we leading the way forward in the post-secondary sector?

The College is filled with brilliant women leaders at all levels – from our Students’ Association President, Emily Ferguson, to our support, academic, management and executive teams. The College has long endeavoured to be progressive on this front, and on a personal note, I was honoured to have followed in the footsteps of Algonquin’s past President, Cheryl Jensen.

When we look across the current landscape with the added lens of the pandemic, it is clear that there are both unresolved and new challenges to building equality for women in the workplace, the classroom and in leadership roles. 

Recent media reports citing how women’s participation in the workforce has dropped to levels not seen in decades are alarming. Working moms are one of the hardest hit groups. We know from experience that these same trends can translate to mothers who work and learn at post-secondary institutions, and those who aspire to do so. 

Having the perspective of strong women leaders at the College helps us ensure that the issues around equality and access for women are top of mind in our decision-making. We are also striving to enhance our learning environment such that it’s inviting, supportive and provides more space for women learners, and fosters their leadership aspirations.

We have a Leadership Development for Women initiative, including an in-development Future Leaders Award that will recognize and reward a female student who has shown outstanding leadership within her academic studies and/or community. Recently we announced that the Leacross Foundation has donated $60,000 to support women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs at Algonquin College.  

We are also beginning to see the results of the We Saved You a Seat pilot we launched in 2018. The program actively recruits women in STEM fields and serves to allocate 30 per cent of available seats for women in five programs: Electrical Engineering Technician, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technician, Computer Systems Technician, and Powerline Technician. 

The initiative, which recently expanded to the Pembroke campus for the Computer System Technician program, has been generously supported by Scotiabank, which includes the Scotiabank Women in Tech Award

Society moves forward when it removes barriers and opens doors to different perspectives. Algonquin College is proud to be a place where women thrive in leadership positions and a place that continues to provide pathways for female learners dreaming to make a contribution and achieve lifelong success.