The annual Women in Defence and Security Canada (WiDS) Scholarship and Awards Breakfast, recognizes excellence among women leaders in defence and security across Canada. The sold-out event brings together professionals from across the industry to celebrate advancements made in creating diversity and inclusivity. The (WiDS) Scholarship and Awards Breakfast provides networking, scholarship and professional development. With over $100,000 in awards to date, the goal of the WiDS scholarship and awards is to promote the advancement of women, and now includes fellowships and other opportunities to recognize women’s contributions to defence and security nationwide. The focus of the scholarship and awards has shifted to acknowledging today’s leaders, who continue the road paved by women throughout history.
L3Harris sponsored a table at the breakfast and invited one of our emerging female leaders as a special guest. Steph McDonald, nominated for her achievements in setting an example for other young women to follow, is a Canadian Industrial Leadership Award (CILA) recipient and was selected to represent L3Harris as a young, emerging, executive trailblazer. She was seated with notable L3Harris role models, including Karine Verhoest, recently named Esprit de Corps Magazine’s Top 20 Women in Defence for 2020; Sarah Marshall, Operations Engineering Manager; Isabelle Jean, fellow CILA recipient; as well as L3Harris guest Honourary Colonel Jane Foster.
“The WiDS Breakfast focused on the challenge of being a woman in a male-dominated industry,” Steph said. “Of the 500 predominantly female attendees in the room, there was a similar understanding of what it’s like to be a woman in the industry. It was agreed that women should stop second-guessing themselves and their decisions, value and input.”
Steph, a University of Toronto Mechanical Engineering and Environmental Engineering student is one of several women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) enrolled at a Canadian university or college who applied for and won, one of the ten coveted CILA nominations. The awards, offered by L3Harris Technologies, Thales Canada and CAE Canada, include a fully paid internship and executive mentorship, plus a one-time bursary and the opportunity for full-time employment after successful completion of their program of study.
“It was very impactful for me to see and meet women in positions of power in various industries with their own individual expressions of femininity,” Steph explained. “When I first started working, I was more inclined to try to blend in with the people around me, most of them are men. This can mean, less jewellery, wearing my hair up, small things; and I think it’s rare that young women get to see established women in industry expressing themselves through their clothing, hair or makeup choices.”
Steph’s leadership skills, her positive can-do attitude and her project ownership impressed the L3Harris selection committee. She is partway through a 12-month cooperative position in the Manufacturing Engineering (Design) department at L3Harris. Though this is her first engineering position within the defence industry, she is actively building her design skills, while developing manufacturing tools and processes on the production floor. Within the first six months of her role, she has proven that she enjoys a challenge, is willing to try new things and is an engaging member of her team.