By Avrum Goldman, System Safety & Reliability Engineering, Pratt & Whitney Canada, ASQ CQE, CRE
Webinar: Women in Quality, Wednesday, March 31, 2021.
On March 31st, 2021, The Montreal section of the ASQ presented an amazing discussion with a talented and diverse panel of women who have made their careers in the field of Quality.
Veronica Marquez, M. Sc., CSSBB of Aristeío Consulting and member of the ASQ Montreal Section Leadership Team, moderated the panel discussion and networking event with the following panel members:
- Marjaneh (Marsha) Pourmand: Senior Consultant with 7S Knowledge Express Inc.
- Véronique Boucher: Independent Quality System Consultant and ASQ Certified Auditor with experience in medical devices, manufacturing and pharmaceutical sectors.
- Carolee Rigsbee: Assistant Professor at University of Illinois at Springfield and senior member of the ASQ.
- Farnoosh Naderkhani: Assistant Professor at the Concordia Institute for Information System Engineering (CIISE) at Concordia University.
Through the webinar access, in addition to panelists at remote locations, we were able to welcome participants from across Canada, USA, Brazil, India and Mexico!
The free-ranging and passionate discussion covered a number of key themes, including:
• Attracting women to Quality: To some extent, these are the universal challenges of raising awareness of career opportunities in Quality for all young people at the high school/university level. To this is added a general cultural bias steering women away from careers in STEM fields. Even awareness of STEM typically does not promote Quality. We need to demonstrate the excitement possible with a career in Quality, and the fulfillment that comes from solving challenging problems and making (your corner of) the world better. Consider supporting more student ASQ branches. Farnoosh and Veronica are leading a student outreach chapter of the Montreal ASQ to reach students “in their natural habitat” at school events, and promoting summer camp activities. Many of us have started our career in other fields and gravitated towards Quality. We need to keep our “outreach” going for our peers across our organizations.
• Challenges faced by women with careers in Quality: The challenge for women to be taken seriously and treated as equals can be even greater in technical fields. Is Quality perceived (by both women and men) as a “men’s field”? How to address this perception? Cultural biases can lead to women getting less understanding for failure and less credit for their accomplishments, and to being excluded from consideration for promotion and networking opportunities. Working remote adds challenges to networking and building informal work relationships. Even other women peers and managers can perpetuate the biases in their environments.
• Guidance for women in their careers in Quality: Seek out mentors and leaders (both technical and managerial) that you can learn from, and who can identify opportunities and encourage you to take on challenges. Build credibility through lifelong learning and credentials (such as ASQ certification). Lack of credentials may be used as a barrier to progress. Demonstrated capability speaks for itself. Don’t box yourself in or build your own ceiling: view your credentials, skills and experiences as a “portfolio” of capabilities that you can bring to bear on whatever challenges and opportunities arise. Take a systems-level view of complex projects and organizations. Working in complex fields requires “soft skills” as much as technical knowledge. Change leadership is often the biggest challenge in a project.
• How we (both men and women) can support women in Quality: This is not just a “women’s issue”: Build awareness to recognize your organizations’ conscious and unconscious biases (and your own), and take steps to overcome them. Promote bias awareness, for example through use of gender-neutral terms and practices. Accommodate work-family balance and challenges that most often fall harder on women. This can be especially hard with current COVID-19 challenges. Promote networking opportunities for women, with both other women peers and with men. Build transparency and objectivity into the processes for training and advancement. Clear guidelines on what capabilities are needed for each position, and how to obtain them will eliminate preferential treatment. Recognize the need to mentor and develop people as a key part of your role as leader/manager. In Academia, the teaching/mentoring aspect of the professor’s role is institutionalized: help bring the same emphasis to other organizations.