Devra Charney / Silhouette Staff

The notion of the glass ceiling has become synonymous with the everyday struggles women face to climb the corporate ladder. On March 28, a networking event was held at TwelveEighty and allowed Mac students to get an inside look at how women in the community face and try to break through the glass ceiling in their respective sectors.

The non-partisan event was hosted by Beyond the Numbers, a Young Liberals of Canada program that encourages young women to engage in politics.

Executive Vice-President of the McMaster Young Liberals Tahiya Bakht organized the evening around the theme of breaking the glass ceiling. It was primarily aimed toward young women because, in Bakht’s networking experiences, men generally do more of the talking.

“When I was at career nights or networking nights, I felt like boys were getting more time with the guests, and they were just more able to break the ice with guests, so I decided that I would host an event that was geared toward getting women more comfortable with that. I wanted the guests to know that this was targeted toward women so that they’d come with a more open mind.”

Students looking to build their personal networks as well as learn how to navigate the workplace mingled with professionals in law, politics and business.

Guests included YWCA coordinators, former Chief of Staffs, lawyers, professors, a VP of Maple Leaf Foods, Mohawk coordinators, EMS workers and staff from the Hamilton Police Services, and other female leaders from the Hamilton community.

Graduate student Felicia Rahaman attended the event in order to network and get advice on entering the professional sphere as a young female. She explained that because of her academic focus in Gender Studies and Feminist Research, she was drawn to the values represented by the event because it encouraged women to move up in the workplace.

“I find the issue of breaking the glass ceiling and getting more women to participate in the workforce very interesting. So I [wanted to] get firsthand experience with women that are working in [various] industries and understand what they perceive to be barriers and how to circumvent those.”

Linda Minas-Connolly, Paramedic Training Supervisor and Advanced Care Paramedic, spoke about the lack of women in emergency service jobs, but she also noted that physical testing in her field does not segregate males and females or favour one gender over another.

She reiterated that personal motivation and qualifications are important factors in success, and so recently, more women are entering the emergency sector as they gain confidence in their capabilities.

“Fire, police, it’s male dominated. I think it’s just up to the individual … Fortunately, in the twelve years that I’ve been here, there have been more women in this type of job, this career choice, and I think that’s because they realize that they can do it just as well as or even better than a man can.”

Sole Practitioner Joan MacDonald advocated for the importance of having a female perspective at the upper-management level. She recognized the gap between men and women in her field in senior management positions and hoped there would be continued work to diminish the gap.

“When I publicly speak, I’ll say to men, the next time you go into a board room and you’ve got a vacancy, rather than looking across at a man or thinking of a man you work with, think of some of those high powered women and bring them with you.”

Bakht hopes to organize a similar event that continues the theme of empowering young women on a larger scale in the fall.

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