Polytechnique Montréal is unequivocally committed to ensuring equal opportunities for all – and to increasing the proportion of women on its staff and in its student body. In this spirit, it has just become the very first university in Canada to be awarded Parity Certification by the Women in Governance organization. Certified organisations will be honoured during a gala held on Wedndesday, September 25th at the Palais des congrès.
Bronze-level certification recognizes the engineering university's progress towards equitable representation of women at all organizational levels, as well as its commitment to fostering all talents.
“By creating a gender-balanced workplace, the university as a whole is open to a larger talent pool,” says Philippe A. Tanguy, Polytechnique Montréal President. “Intensifying our recruitment efforts to that end is one of our 2018–2023 Strategic Plan priorities. By remaining committed to that goal, we can and will improve our teams’ skills, stimulate innovation, and foster an open, inclusive atmosphere.”
A forward-focused vision
Annie Ross, Associate Director, Academic and Research, and Co-Chair of the Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research, explains: “We approached this certification process humbly. By committing to it, we’ve pledged to adjust our organizational culture. Currently, female representation among faculty is 14%, and in other staff categories, it’s 43%, so we have a great deal of work ahead of us to improve the status of women in our university. Collectively, we intend to make every effort to improve the situation.”
Polytechnique is something of an exception among Parity Certification recipients; the majority of organizations are companies. Patrick Cigana, Polytechnique Senior Advisor for Sustainable Development, oversaw the university’s application and describes it as a bold initiative: “By earning a place among the 48 organizations certified in 2019, Polytechnique is asserting itself. We are the first university in the country to have opened our books and obtained assurance, from a neutral third party no less, that we are on the right track to achieving gender parity.”
He continues: “Our approach is all the more worthwhile considering the historical predominance of men in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Moreover, academic research and literature quite clearly demonstrate that gender-diverse teams deliver competitive advantages.”
A formal commitment
In 2017, Polytechnique’s Board of Directors formally declared their commitment to support and promote equity, diversity, and inclusion. Endorsed by all of the university’s decision-making entities, the declaration was motivating and transformative. It reads: “Polytechnique Montréal believes in diversity as a stimulus for the growth of its creativity and an undeniable catalyst for excellence in its education, research and outreach activities. Polytechnique Montréal is steadfast in its commitment to inclusivity for women, members of visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, and those who are differently-abled. Polytechnique Montréal is actively engaged in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion throughout its community.”
That same year, the university established the Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Research, which in turn crafted an action plan to address four areas of under-representation among holders of Canada Research Chairs, namely: women, visible minorities, the differently-abled, and Indigenous peoples. A progress report is issued each year to account for the evolution of the Committee’s goals.
“Parity Certification recognizes the exemplary practices of Canadian organizations that enthusiastically invest in gender equity in the workplace,” notes Amélie Tanguay, Section Head, Hiring, Organizational Development and Skills Development within Polytechnique Montréal’s Human Resources department. “Bronze-level certification confirms that we’re headed in the right direction. Women in Governance will also provide us with a personalized report, which we can mine for ideas as to how to continue refining our recruitment and talent management practices.”
A proactive student community
University administration doesn’t stand alone in clearly advocating and committing to gender diversity; Polytechnique’s student community is very much involved as well. As an example, the Poly-L committee actively promotes women in leadership roles, with the ultimate goal of achieving gender equity at all levels within the workplace. It organizes initiatives to raise awareness about cognitive biases, to bolster female students’ ambitions, and to foster a spirit of co-operation between men and women.
The Poly-φ (Poly-Phi) Committee has created and implemented a mentorship program, in addition to organizing a series of activities with industrial partners, with the goal of showcasing female role models in engineering.
The aforementioned are just a select few of the initiatives that have been implemented. Visit the “Women and Engineering” web page to learn more: https://www.polymtl.ca/femmes-genie/en.
This communication was first published on 26 September 2019 by Polytechnique Montréal.