Canadian Women in Electronics Engineering and Industry
Throughout 2020 EP&T explores the topic of diversity in the industry through a series of articles called Viewpoint; stories designed to get readers thinking about gender equity in the engineering profession, allowing others to maybe see their surroundings through a new lens.
Naudia Banton is the Director of Operations for intelliFLEX Innovation Alliance. She is a woman of colour, a mother, a wife, a daughter, holds a Master of Science in Technology Management and runs her own consulting company. She has a passion for helping women in tech and entrepreneurship and helping young workers navigate their first jobs.
Q. How has your role or career path evolved over the years?
I spent the first 15 plus years of my career working in Human Resources. During that time, I worked in multiple industries including publishing, healthcare, insurance, education, and manufacturing. In each of my various roles I tended to gravitate towards innovation and process improvement. Then I got the opportunity to work in the Startup space, helping companies across industries and applications; that’s where all my generalist experience came alive.
Now I manage an industry alliance that focuses on printed electronics, which I would not have been exposed to, had I not had worked as a Startup advisor.
Q. What are your most compelling accomplishments?
There are probably three that stand out the most. In 2014, I was hired by Communitech, one of the largest innovation hubs in the world, to build a boot camp that supported women entrepreneurs engaged in technology development and commercialization. We had over 100 applications and selected 25 women to go through a 6-day intensive boot camp in order to compete for $100,000 in seed funding. That Women Entrepreneurs boot camp launched the first female focused accelerator in Canada – Fierce Founders.
I have also consulted with Deloitte and the World Bank to develop another female entrepreneur boot camp and programming for entrepreneurs in the Caribbean.
In 2018, with the support of my family and while working full-time, I completed the Master of Science in Technology Management program at the Lazaridis Institute at Laurier University.
Q. What key words of advice do you have for employers seeking to create a supportive environment for women?
The one that stands out the most to me is having a flexible work schedule. Working 8-4, is no different than working 10-6; they are still 8-hour shifts.
When you treat people as adults and allow them to go to drop their kids off, go to doctors’ appointments or care for aging parents, and then allow them to make the time up, it helps them manage and balance their lives. Historically these things have been seen as the responsibility of the woman, but if the culture supported a flexible work schedule for men and women, women would no longer be singled out.
Q. What impact does the lack of female role models in higher level positions have on aspiring engineers or young women entering the field?
I think people under estimate the impact of role modeling and mentorship in the workplace. When women, and I think people in general, see themselves reflected in leadership positions, it breeds a certain sense of belonging and normalcy.
I have so much admiration for women who are trail blazers in their fields. I believe it’s vital for women to see other women in leadership positions to be inspired and motivated by their successes. It is especially important for women who are just entering the workforce to have someone to look up to and to aspire to emulate.
Q. What does diversity mean to you and why is it important [for engineering]?
That is an interesting question. I am a woman of colour, a mother, a wife, and a daughter, and unapologetic about it all. All of these things inform how I do business. That’s not to say it’s better than any other way, it’s just different; and that diversity of thought is important.
In terms of engineering, there are more women than men in Canada yet women make up significantly less than half of all engineers in the country. There is a strong demand in the market for engineers so If we want to overcome skills shortages, then it’s important that we bring the best minds to the table.
Canada is often referred to as a mosaic where the diverse make up of its population creates the rich tapestry of who we are. I will always be an advocate for diversity and inclusion. Not only it is the right thing to do, but different experiences and viewpoints are needed to make for richer and more prosperous economy.