Photo by Kyle West

Statistics Canada data suggests that persons with disabilities, Indigenous and racialized identities are vastly underrepresented in workforces in Canada. To help marginalized students and alumni seek employment, the Student Success Centre launched the Career Access Program for Students, a suite of services offered in collaboration with the Student Accessibility Centre and Maccess.

CAPS focuses on skill building and career development through career advising, strategic goal setting and personal branding. Students also work on creating an employment action plan that is customized to meet their needs.

The program is for students and alumni that identify as persons with disabilities, First Nations, Metis and Inuit persons, members of racialized communities, First Generation students and LGBTQA2S+ students.  

Students and alumni can book one-on-one appointments through OSCARPlus, participate through events, or utilize online resources to learn about financial accommodations for students with disabilities, wellness support services, a transit accessibility initiative and campaigns to promote diverse practices.

The SSC also introduced a new position.

Katherine Hesson-Bolton started her position as the diversity employment coordinator in July 2018.

Her initial goals were finding her way around campus alongside first-year students, reading reports, developing a network with faculties, students, campus services and partners and identifying service gaps and needs.

Hesson-Bolton’s role places her in a unique position as a connecting link between McMaster and the greater community.

She regularly meets with employers in hopes of coming away with jobs and opportunities for students while also having conversations around diversity hiring and removing barriers.

She then is able to provide employers with on-campus and external resources, such as ones coming from Pride at Work Canada, to help them address diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“It’s really about having a conversation with the employer to hear what their needs are, what McMaster students’ needs are, and then finding that fit… So it’s really about relationship building on both sides,” said Hesson-Bolton.

“It also comes back to reaching back to those campus partners, whether it’s student accessibility services or Indigenous services,” said Hesson-Bolton. “I also work a lot with and involve students on campus because it’s really important to get students’ perspective and their feedback.”

Hesson-Bolton also strategizes with employees on branding. Some employers have identified that they want to focus on inclusion, but do not know how to identify and address the needs of new employees.

“You may have employers who will want to hire students with disabilities. And the question back is ‘have you thought about how your workplace is set up? What are your policies, procedures, your staff education, so that the new employee feels included?’,” said Hesson-Bolton.

Hesson-Bolton starts the conversation by discussing meeting the needs of new hires, whether that be identifying the accommodations that would allow persons with disabilities to work, establishing prayer spaces or recognizing that always having social events in establishments that serve alcohol may exclude some individuals.

Hesson-Bolton also has important conversations with students and alumni around disclosure in the workplace and accommodation plans.

She also provides a space for students to talk about their frustrations, experiences with discrimination, while also connecting them to mentors and peers with similar lived experience.  

There is a strong need for university services to support students entering the workforce and address the barriers to diversity and inclusion. The CAPS program and the role of the diversity employment coordinator are just getting started.


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By: Lauren Beals

When she was a student, Hoda ElMaraghy ventured where no woman had before. In 1976, she became the first woman to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering at McMaster. What followed was an esteemed career laced with achievement and novelty. This includes becoming the first woman to be appointed as faculty member in mechanical engineering at McMaster, and the first woman to hold the position of Dean of Engineering when she joined the University of Windsor in 1994.

She has since published over 380 papers in professional journals, holds a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Manufacturing Systems and is currently a fellow of the Canadian Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and the International Academy for Production Engineering.

On Jan. 20 her incredible achievements were recognized as one of 25 Order of Ontario recipients, the highest honors in the province. ElMaraghy was the only engineer recognized amongst this year’s recipients.

“I was indeed thrilled,” said ElMaraghy. “It was great to have my work and leadership acknowledged […] being invested in the Order of Ontario is one of my proudest moments.”

Like any true pioneer, ElMaraghy was left to navigate a challenging field in a time when there were very few females in engineering. “At the beginning of my career there were very few women engineers, and being the first [PhD and faculty] was certainly a novelty. There was a great pressure to prove one’s abilities.”

Despite the odds, ElMaraghy overcame preconceptions by demonstrating excellence in her abilities, going on to become the founding director of the Flexible Manufacturing Systems here at McMaster and establishing herself as a powerhouse in manufacturing and systems design.

Named Hamilton’s Woman of the Year in the Workplace in 1990, ElMaraghy has seen the positive influence women leaders can have across genders. “Women role models in academia and in the corporate world are very important not only for women but also for men who are expected to work with and sometimes be supervised by women,” said ElMaraghy.

When she was a student, Hoda ElMaraghy ventured where no woman had before. In 1976, she became the woman graduate to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering at McMaster. What followed was an esteemed career laced with achievement and novelty.

Right now, she serves as a faculty member as an engineering professor at the University of Windsor and is a collaborator with the Canadian government. ElMaraghy thinks should play a crucial role in the advancement of women in academia and the workplace. “Universities and employers must put in place measures to remove clear and hidden barriers for women’s progress in these fields and promote equal pay for work of equal value,” she said. “They must offer them leadership training and opportunities for progress.”

Looking ahead, ElMaraghy is confident that women can continue to succeed in emerging STEM fields but deserve the right blend of advocacy.

“Women are capable of tackling many challenges in engineering but they need more support, encouragement and recognition,” she said.

Photo Credit: University of Windsor

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