Careers: Rotman’s Initiative for Women in Business

Are You Ready to Move Ahead in Your Career?

by Claudio Muñoz

Getting a decent job in Canada is just the beginning. The path to success for most newcomers usually begins with “undermy- level positions” – not necessarily survival jobs but occupations in their area of expertise that do not reflect their experience or education credentials. Newcomers need to start climbing from there.

In today’s Canada, most newcomers can find a job faster than they used to. According to Statistics Canada the employment rate of core working-age recent immigrants (those aged 25 to 54 who came to Canada between 2001 and 2006) was 67 percent, an increase of 3.6 percent from 2001. If you are an immigrant, a number of settlement organizations and employment agencies can help you land your first job. How to write a proper Canadian résumé or preparing for a job interview are common workshops available at these institutions. To start working in your field in Canada can be extremely difficult, but there is help. The question is, once you get your first job, what’s next? How can you get your dream job now?

University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management decided to give a hand to those immigrant women who came to Canada with a résumé packed with business achievements but currently stuck in rookie positions. Starting this summer, the school will offer Business Edge for Internationally Trained Women Professionals.

It’s ladies first now

The program is set to start in July. The application process is scheduled for May and June, and includes a personal interview. Once accepted, sessions will take place weekday evenings and during weekends so you don’t need to ask for special permission at your current job.

To get a better idea of what the program is all about, you need to know a little bit about Rotman’s Initiative for Women in Business, a series of “development programs” aimed to help and support women with different backgrounds and at different stages in their careers. Business Edge for Internationally Trained Women Professionals is part of that. One of the programs seeks the advancement of more women into senior leadership positions – The Judy Project. Another one is designed specifically to help women lawyers who want to advance within their firms – called Business Leadership for Women Lawyers. “The program for internationally trained women professionals focuses on advancement in one’s career,” explains Melwyn D’ Costa, Associate Director of the School.

“We must face the fact that a gender gap exists. There are still many barriers to female representation in the business environment, from senior management to other leadership roles to board seats.” Beatrix Dart, Executive Director of the Initiative, states on Rotman’s website.

Now, if you are an immigrant and a woman, the road to the big office at a big company is even harder. You may have the experience, the knowledge, the ambition. You know you can do much better...but it’s not happening.

Rotman developed the new program for internationally trained professionals focusing on specific difficulties. “The first barrier is not being able to network,” D’ Costa says. “Second, they (immigrants) don’t have mentors who can guide them, who can explain to them how things work in a Canadian workplace environment. The third barrier is that they are not getting good projects – which is a key element to improve your career. Through them you can get the attention of your boss or senior managers.” Keeping these obstacles in mind, some of the key themes of the program will be:

  1. Relationships; including how you manage those critical relationships that can help you to know what’s happening in your business, to know about good projects or new opportunities.
  2. Culturalization, which is all about how to make decisions at your workplace, in a Canadian environment; how to work in a collaborative environment; how you can have a conversation around a effect the rules of the game in Canada
  3. Skills development. From soft skills like influencing or managing expectations to how to prepare for Canadian business people, how to deliver presentations across the table, and so on. The program also includes the creation of an action plan, a blueprint. By the end of it, women will leave Rotman’s building with a better idea of what they want and how to make it happen...with new tools, skills and new contacts to start building a network. Also, attendees are going to spend some time getting to know themselves, developing the path they are going to follow and setting up a career.

How to reach the peak

This program is not a degree. It is not even about financial business skills – the kind of knowledge you can get attending Rotman’s MBAfor example. It was developed to help immigrant women get back on track. If you are from anywhere in the world but North America you may not understand why Canadians spend so much time talking about the weather, sports or completely random topics during work meetings. Or why you are not supposed to e-mail your boss about every single task you tackle. Maybe you don’t get why it may not be a good idea to stay typing your report, alone at your desk, while everybody is having a break because of a co-worker’s birthday.

The program is about all those skills you can’t learn from books and you need badly to be successful on Bay Street.

To be accepted in Business Edge for Internationally Trained Women Professionals applicants should have at least five years of experience in their country of origin working at the position you are pursuing here, less than that means that you are still reasonably new to the workforce. Also, applicants need to be proficient in English, meaning that you need to feel comfortable with your English in a business environment. If you’re struggling with your language skills, you need to overcome that challenge first. Those interested in the program should be working in the same business as in their former country, although it is not essential.

The program is funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities of Ontario. It runs four weeknights and two Saturdays in July to August, followed by one review session in October 2008. The $3,000 program fee includes learning materials and class-day meals. Full scholarships may be available.

For more information contact Melwyn D’Costa, Associate Director Rotman School of Management at melwyn.d’ This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit