Friday Program

Constructing Change: Policies vs. Culture

Time and Date: 1:00–4:00 pm on Friday, May 3
Session Type: Policy Forum
Facilitators: Jennifer Pelletier and Dr. Sheryl Staub-French
Thought Leaders: Dr. Ninan Abraham, Courtnay Hughes, Justine Munich, Dr. Cheryl Nelms, and Dr. Toni Schmader

Creating policies that remove biases, educate colleagues, and create an inclusive, flexible workplace are only the first part of the battle. The second part is making it okay to use them. Workplace cultures are complex, political, and nuanced, and having a policy on paper does not necessarily make it "real." Research suggests that policies that you are penalized—officially or not—for using are worse than no policies at all.

In this half day facilitated discussion, researchers, HR professionals, and workers will share their experiences as an ignition point for table discussions, brainstorming, and the generation of new ideas.

This forum is for working professionals, managers, HR representatives, and other stakeholders. We regret that spaces are limited. Proceeds for this event go towards Creating Connections travel bursaries. 


Professor Ninan Abraham is the Associate Dean for Equity and Diversity at UBC Faculty of Science. He oversees and advances the Faculty's equity and diversity initiatives, related not only to gender, but also including ethnicity, Indigeneity, LGTBQ+, and disability. Efforts this past year have focused on examining the diversity gap in the Faculty of Science and exploring the gatekeeping role of the hiring process in contributing to this gap. He enjoys engaging faculty and trainees on the data behind diversity in academia and the policies and processes that need to shift. Dr. Abraham is a Professor in the Departments of Zoology and Microbiology & Immunology. He conducts research on the regulation of airway immunity by immune hormones, funded by CIHR and NSERC.

Courtnay Hughes is a recognized expert on gender diversity in mining with over fifteen years of experience in human resource management.  Ms. Hughes advises mining industry employers, educators and communities on their inclusion efforts. Courtnay leads national and regional research and policy initiatives on diversity and inclusion for the mining sector. Highlighted program development initiatives include the Mining Industry Human Resources Council's - Gender Equity in Mining (GEM) Works program.

Courtnay contributes to a number of national and regional committees focusing on increasing diversity and building HR capacity. These include the BC Mining HR Taskforce; Women in Mining Canada’s National Action Plan; Engineers and Geoscientists BC Taskforce on Gender Diversity; and the Engendering Engineering Success Consortium. Courtnay holds a Bachelors of Business Administration from Simon Fraser University and a Masters of Applied Science in Mining Engineering from the University of British Columbia. Courtnay's graduate research was one of the first studies to identify and investigate gender inequality within the Canadian mining workforce.

Justine Munich is a PhD student in the physics department at SFU. She works with the Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (ALPHA) Collaboration, a group of about 50 scientists that is based at CERN. CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where physicists and engineers are researching the fundamental structure of the universe. The ALPHA Collaboration makes, captures, and studies atoms of antihydrogen and compares these with hydrogen atoms. Justine is responsible for studying the interaction between electromagnetic radiation and antihydrogen. She works on refining existing techniques as well as developing and characterizing a new microwave resonator. ALPHA hopes to study the fundamental symmetries between matter and antimatter. When she is not busy in the lab, Justine volunteers extensive time to support minority communities, including women in physics.

Cheryl Nelms is the Deputy City Engineer for the City of Vancouver. With annual budgets totaling over $500 million and 1,900 staff, she is responsible for capital project construction and delivery in Engineering Services. Engineering Services is also mandated with a variety of planning and regulatory functions and plays a central role in the day-to-day functioning of the city. As the largest city department, Engineering delivers a complex array of essential public services while implementing an ambitious policy agenda to become the greenest City in the world by 2020.

Cheryl received her Engineering degree from McGill University and a PhD in Construction Management from the University of British Columbia. Cheryl is also an adjunct professor at the University Of British Columbia Department of Civil Engineering and on the Board of Mosaic which empowers newcomers to fully participate in Canadian Society.

Jennifer Pelletier has been engaged in issues related to women and diversity in STEM for more than a decade. A founder of the Creating Connections conference, she was the Manager of Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science, and Technology from 2010–2015.  She currently holds the position of Manager, Facilities and Special Projects, in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of British Columbia. 

Dr. Toni Schmader holds the Canada Research Chair in Social Psychology at the University of British Columbia and is the Director of Engendering Success in STEM, a research consortium committed to evidence-based strategies to improve women’s experiences in STEM fields. She has 15 years of experience and over 70 publications, many of which examine how stereotypes and bias constrain people's performance and self-views. Dr. Schmader has given frequent public lectures on the topic of implicit gender bias including talks to the National Academies of Science in the United States, as part of Harvard's Women in Work Series, and at the International Gender Summit. She was the recipient of a Killam Research Prize in 2013 and the Wegner Theoretical Innovation Prize in 2018.

Dr. Sheryl Staub-French is a Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and the Goldcorp Professor for Women in Engineering at the University of British Columbia. Sheryl leads a targeted recruitment strategy for UBC Engineering that plans to increase the number of women enrolled in its programs from the national average of 20% to 50% by 2020. She established the eng•cite engineering outreach program to get girls engaged and excited about engineering. eng•cite works with teachers, counsellors, parents, and high school students to promote engineering education and provide mentorship and role models to encourage girls and young women to pursue engineering careers. Sheryl is also the Director of the Building Information Modeling (BIM) Topics Lab where she leads research focused on understanding and improving best practices for the delivery of sustainable building construction projects through effective and collaborative use of BIM. In her spare time, she plays Lego, soccer, and beam ball with her kids.