Named one of BetaKit’s 40 Women in Canadian Tech Worth Following, Karen Schulman Dupuis (better known as KarenSD) is routinely called a ‘force of nature’. She is a passionate supporter of women in their leadership and career trajectories, a champion of diversity and inclusion as a growth strategy and leadership competency, and of increasing the ratio of diversity within technology companies and startups in Canada.
Professionally, Karen is a Business Designer who works with clients and organizations to help them integrate their marketing, operations, and strategy goals. She is currently the Principal consultant at Social Design Ltd. And Karen is currently a candidate for a Masters in Leadership studies at Royal Roads University.
Which brings me to her research and the focus of our conversation in this episode…
If you’re a working woman, there’s a pretty good chance your career was disrupted by something outside your control once or twice along the way. There’s an even better chance one of those disruptions led you to start a business or seek self-employment.
This week’s episode of the She Breaks The Mold podcast dives deeply into this issue as my brilliant friend Karen – speaker, writer, designer, teacher, student, mentor, and “shift disturber” – joins me on the show. Karen and I talk about research she’s putting into the field this week to learn more about the still invisible trend of gendered agism in the workforce.
The history of women's career disruption is long.
There’s a long history of women doing what needs to be done for our communities, families and to some extent, ourselves, followed by an unplanned end to all that effort. In World Wars 1 & 2, North American women took jobs vacated by men as they left for war – jobs that included manual factory labour, administration, product design, driving…you name it. And while women certainly faced discrimination for doing “men’s work”, society was generally OK with this because work got done, and the wheels of industry and war kept turning. Until the men returned from Europe and wanted their jobs back, leaving a highly skilled workforce of women searching for their kitchen aprons once again.
Discrimination, sexual harassment, child and eldercare and gendered ageism all contribute to women's career disruption.
Now, of course, there are far fewer legal and structural barriers for women to participate in the workforce. But the insidious reasons behind why we decide to leave it all behind still remain.
As part of her Master’s degree program, Karen’s ambitious research seeks to uncover the causes, implications and untold stories behind women’s career disruption in the 40-64 year old age group.
Focusing on working women in her home city of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, she’ll have the assistance of five local partners to help get the survey in front of the right women: the City of Hamilton Small Business Enterprise Centre, YWCA Hamilton, the Hamilton Community Foundation, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, and Innovation Factory. All of whom, Karen hopes, will integrate the results of her study into solutions that improve work for women and who can serve as an example to other municipalities hoping to foster collaborative efforts to do the same.
To hear more about her research goals, how she hopes the results will be used and how they’ll help working women, please listen.