Highly educated and experienced immigrant women are finding themselves un-hireable in the Canadian labour market landscape.
The Toronto Star spoke with two women, Hala El Ouarrak and Maysam Fadal, who both have great experience in fields that are prominent in the Canadian job market, and who could not find work in their fields for years when they immigrated to Toronto.
Hala El Ouarrak can speak English, French, and Arabic. She has a PhD in applied math and automatic control engineering as well as a wealth of experience in project management. She took a job as a sales account manager at a shoe store while tutoring in statistics on the side. Two years later, she was hired as an IT consultant and part-time lecturer at Northeastern University.
Maysam Fadal had worked with the UN and UNISEF in Syria as a community service coordinator and emergency officer. She arrived in Toronto in 2019 and applied for over 500 jobs in the not-for-profit sector, which yielded no responses. It was not until she had a friend’s husband help her modify her resume, which included removing her last name, “Allah”, that she started getting responses to her applications.
This is an issue immigrant women as a demographic have faced and continue to face. A recent survey of immigrant women in the GTA revealed that 83.8% of participants altered their appearance or credentials to fit in better with other Canadians. Alterations included downgrading experience and education, changing names, clothes, and accents.
These women are blindsided by the high value the Canadian immigration point system places on their skills, which is revealed, when they arrive, to not reflect in the Canadian job market’s reception of them. El Ouarrak suggests that what is needed is for recruiters to look solely at qualifications and avoid engaging with any personal information of a candidate that may cause unfair biases in the hiring process.