Lubna Khader is the Lead Data Scientist at Addictive Mobility. She got her Masters degree in Applied Computing from the University of Toronto in 2014, and has been working in the fields of Machine Learning and Big Data Analytics since then. She has helped create the first data products at Addictive Mobility and grew the data science team. She has also played a bridging role between industry and multiple academic institutions to promote collaborative projects, and guided students through these efforts.
What is your experience of a glass ceiling?
I think one of the main barriers in front of women, is having gender as a big part of our professional identity. If we keep defining ourselves in the workplace as women and a minority, then we inherit all the stereotypes that come with it, which in turn influence how we behave. The reality is that women are underrepresented, and that may makes us feel like we don’t belong, and more averse towards pursuing a male dominated industry/specialization or position. Gender priming has been shown to subconsciously influence the behaviour of women in a way that matches the stereotype, and hinders performance. Change starts from within, so I believe identifying our negative emotions and perceptions and dealing with them is the first step towards a better participation in the workplace. Professional capabilities are not dependant on gender, so gender should be kept out of the picture in the workplace.
What is your opinion on quotas and the gender pay gap?
I think quotas make sense when the position is about representation (e.g parliament), and effectiveness is drawn from personal experiences. However, I am against them for professional skill based positions. Getting a job based on the group one belongs to rather than true skill is unfair and will be used against women to show that they don’t truly deserve it. Women are more than capable of illustrating true skill, and competing fairly with other candidates regardless of gender, so quotas in these scenarios will not help women get true equality.
Gender pay gap is truly sad, as it reflects how employers undervalue women’s contributions, how women undervalue themselves, and lack the sense of power when negotiating. Women should be aware that they won’t necessarily get what’s fair without asking or fighting for it. I believe that women should look for mentors, and actively try to learn these skills from other women, and men, and be open to discuss these important but mostly neglected soft skills in the workplace.
What do you think the #MeToo movement needs to do in order to make a huge impact in women’s professional lives?
Regarding the #MeToo movement; it uncovered a scary side of society, and how prevalent harassment towards women is in the workplace. It needs to be translated into actions to affect change; a big piece of it is education, I think every company should explain to employees how harassment looks like, what’s acceptable and not acceptable to do to a colleague, and have things clearly defined. Once that done, Women should be encouraged to come forward with their experiences, and have some sort of a committee to investigate the issue, and once fairly evaluated, strict consequences should follow to show that harassment can’t be tolerated in the workplace. I do have some concerns about it though; I am worried it would reach an inflection point, if it became a trend, or a mean to get something, then the word harassment will begin to lose its meaning, at that point claims won’t be taken seriously and the whole cause would crumble again. I’m hoping that won’t happen.