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Inspiring Words: Ellen MacIntyre

On December 4, 2015, Ellen MacIntyre, Program Manager at Lockheed Martin and integral Techsploration volunteer was the guest speaker at the  Annual Launch; an event bringing together Techsploration volunteers, sponsors and supporters to launch the program into the next year. The following is a copy of her speech detailing her insights from 30 years of experience working in the technology industry and how Techsploration is helping Nova Scotia foster a healthy economy.   


My job today is to welcome you and thank those who provide their support to the Techsploration team. If you’ll indulge me for five minutes or so, I’d like to first provide some context so you understand that my thanks are heartfelt.

Techsploration’s goal is to increase the number of women working in science, trades and technology-related occupations. Their approach to achieving this goal is to assist young women from diverse backgrounds explore a wide range of career options in these fields.

This is a topic that is very important to me on a number of levels. Research tells us that an economy that fosters jobs in these fields leads to greater innovation. So, as a Canadian and a Nova Scotian, I believe we need to leverage every human asset to ensure we have abundant opportunities and a high quality of life that will help keep people here.

As a manager in a technology-based company, I need a deep and diverse labour pool from which to draw employment candidates. Lockheed Martin (like so many other companies) strives for equal representation of all walks of life; yet our employee base hovers at around 15 per cent female. We simply cannot find enough women with the required education or practical experience in engineering, math or computer science.

As a woman I want to see other women embrace whatever opportunity they are passionate about.

I have worked in the technology industry for thirty years; first as a programmer, then as a manager of programmers and engineers. During that time I have seen and heard pretty much every facet of this topic—the statistics, the debates, and occasionally the unfairness—but I have seen things improve.

Yet, even in the 21st century when women represent almost 50 per cent of the labour force, we are still under-represented in science, trades and technology-related fields. There are hundreds of studies, but the numbers are pretty close from one to the next and without question they tell the same story.

Some examples:

  • In 2012, Skills Canada – Nova Scotia reported that women made up 19 per cent of the tech-based workforce and five per cent of the skilled trades;
  • Statistics Canada reports, based on the 2011 National Household Study, that women represent 30 per cent of the math and computer science sector and only 23 per cent of the engineering sector.

Studies aside, all you need to do is walk onto a construction site or through a technology campus to see that the disparity is still there.

An article published by PBS NewsHour earlier this year [2015] suggests the subject of STEM gender gap is “overblown,” claiming that traditional jobs are just as important, challenging, and rewarding as STEM careers—and they’re not wrong. How many of us, our mothers, and our grandmothers worked as nurses, teachers, biologists, or admin assistants? Where would we be as a community without them?

In all that I have read and the conversations I’ve had on the topic, there is one point on which we generally can agree: the importance of choice.

Girls and boys benefit by knowing what their options are and by being encouraged to pursue any options that interest them. Until the day when every girl in every village, town, and city knows what her choices are then there is a need for organizations like Techsploration.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate. I grew up with a father who told people I was going to be the first female prime minister of Canada. I grew up with a mother who told me I wouldn’t get permission to drive the car until I could explain the basic workings of an automobile. My mother grew up playing hockey with the boys and was always first picked for teams despite being a girl. She was a woman who re-shingled her own roof; who built her own shed; who repaired her own dryer, water heater, iron; and who is a technology geek to boot. I learned by watching her that a woman could do anything she set her mind to. I had teachers throughout grade school that recognized my talent for math, saw my potential, and encouraged me to pursue it.

And I did. So, when the second-year calculus professor suggested I may be studying the wrong field, I wasn’t dissuaded. And when I learned that male co-workers were making significantly more money than I was, I didn’t settle. I had a community of champions standing behind me telling me I could do it. So I worked hard and kept moving forward.

I got involved with Techsploration about two years ago. What drew me to them specifically was their goal and their approach. Not every girl is as fortunate as I was (am). Not every girl has the support I had, or is aware of the amazing opportunities available to them. Not every girl is encouraged to pursue what she loves or is told that she can be anything she wants to be—whether it’s prime minister of Canada or an electrical appliance repair person.

This is what Techsploration does. They help make young women aware of what their options are—all of them—so they can make informed choices. I applaud them for that.

The Techsploration team succeeds because of the generous dedication of many volunteers and sponsors. So, in closing, let’s raise our glasses to them. When you provide your employees with the flexibility to be role models, when you donate your time or money to this organization, you are reaching out to a group of young women who may not otherwise hear about the wonderful things of which they are capable. You are fostering a better tomorrow for our community and for those girls. Thank you to the volunteers and sponsors.