Recognized as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2019) and Waterloo Area's Top Employers (2019):
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Nov 8, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why University of Waterloo was selected as one of Canada's Top 100 Employers (2019) and Waterloo Area's Top Employers (2019):
- Along with a broad charitable focus that includes the arts, culture and diversity, economic development, health and well-being, environmental sustainability and youth engagement, the University of Waterloo recently launched a unique "Volunteer Centre" to help engage students and employees with causes that are of the greatest importance to them
- In keeping with its raison d'être, the University of Waterloo encourages ongoing employee development through its Organizational and Human Development Office, which offers a wide range of training programs on topics including business communications, leadership development, information technology, diversity and inclusivity
- University of Waterloo encourages employees to prepare for the future with contributions to a defined benefit pension plan, retirement planning assistance and health benefits that extend to retirees (with no age limit) -- additionally, the university maintains a retiree association to help retirees stay connected and represent their concerns related to pension and benefit matters, human resource issues and university policy changes
U of Waterloo prizes innovation - and its people
It may be a cliché, but the University of Waterloo really does walk the walk when it comes to finding innovative - and employee-positive - solutions to reach its goals. Imagine working at a place so committed to sustainability that, if you walk or cycle to work in warmer months but drive in winter, you can keep your precious parking spot for free when you don't need it. Or where, if you walk, cycle, carpool or take public transit to work, you can be reimbursed for taxi fare when you have to get home quickly for, say, a child-care crisis.
The university - which has almost 39,000 students as well as a world-leading post-secondary co-operative education program - strives to be one of the most innovative in the world, but also one of the most employee-focused. "The most important thing for me," says Marilyn Thompson, Associate Provost, Human Resources, "is that the people who work here are feeling the commitment we've made to enhancing their careers and providing supports around them."
Innovation and making employees feel valued run through everything the university does, says Thompson. She cites the institution's policy on intellectual property. "Waterloo's intellectual property policy provides a lot of incentive for students, staff and faculty to innovate, and the University also has numerous supports in place to aid in the commercialization of ideas." The university also has two programs that fund staff travel abroad or within Canada so they can learn how various educational and industrial partners operate.
Communication and consultation with employees are prized at the university, Thompson says. There are town halls, "pop-up HR" sessions and consultations with employees on the new strategic plan, to be launched in 2020. Regular discussions take place with the Staff and Faculty Associations, as well as the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
Murielle Landry, Communications Co-ordinator, Faculty of Arts, loves being the staff appointee serving on the university's Healthy Workplace Committee, which in 2017 introduced an institution-wide Wellness Day in October. "It does mean extra time, doing a little bit in the evening or when I have free time during the day," she says. "My supervisors are supportive of me giving back to the university, and balancing my job and working on the committee."
Overall, adds Landry, the institution where she has been employed since 2013 has given her opportunities to grow. "Working in an office where you often see associate deans or the dean come by and actually ask your opinion and consider that and use that - it's great to be in an environment like that."
In its quest to be the best workplace possible, the university is implementing guidelines from Excellence Canada, an independent agency that offers measurable standards and objective validation, hoping to attain gold certification in excellence, innovation and wellness by next year. One aspect of wellness that's very important to the university is mental health, says Thompson: it was an early adopter of the Mental Health Commission of Canada's national standards for psychological health and the workplace.
The University of Waterloo also encourages employee development through a wide range of training opportunities. And Thompson notes the institution is deeply committed to gender equality and equity. It is the only Canadian participant in the United Nations HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 campaign and has set goals for increasing females in its STEM programs, the faculty, and senior academic and administration positions by 2020.
Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2018):
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 1, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why University of Waterloo was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2018):
- University of Waterloo participated in the HeForShe campaign and committed to boosting participation in STEM experiences for girls, enhancing female faculty representation to 30 per cent by 2020 (currently at 29.6 per cent), and supporting the advancement of women to leadership roles
- The organization hosts W3s (Waterloo Women's Wednesdays), monthly gatherings of woman-identified grad students, post-docs, staff and faculty -- past talks have included topics such as "invisible labour in the game industry" and "Women Under Pressure"
- University of Waterloo's Status of Women and Equity Committee created the Equity and Inclusivity Award to recognize a member or affiliate of the university community whose actions have demonstrated exemplary commitment to improving equity, inclusivity and diversity on campus
"As a new staff member at Waterloo, the Inclusivity Series helped me to understand the extent to which the University is making an effort to build inclusivity into a wide range of programs. While the process is not yet complete, it is useful to understand where significant progress had been made and where staff are still working to make changes." University of Waterloo employee
Schooled in diversity at the University of Waterloo
When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusivity, everybody at the University of Waterloo is a stakeholder. As a concept, that's straightforward. In practice, ensuring that everyone feels welcome and empowered to achieve their goals on a campus as sizable and complex as Waterloo's requires substantial, sustained effort.
The university, for starters, believes its faculty and staff should reflect its diverse student body -- and society as a whole. That's why Waterloo reviewed its recruitment policies and practices because who doesn't get hired can be as significant as who does. Associate Provost, Human Resources Marilyn Thompson says Waterloo now also looks upstream to ensure it recruits from as wide a pool of candidates as possible, including historically disadvantaged and under-represented groups.
Waterloo also works to level the hiring playing field by addressing another key issue. Before many selection committee meetings, its members are prompted to think about how unconscious beliefs and opinions can skew one's judgment.
"We all come with different experiences and have inherent biases, even the most well-intentioned among us," says Thompson. "But we know from the research that being reminded of them can mitigate their impact."
One area where Waterloo has made great strides is in its commitment to gender equity. With input from various advisory councils and change champions, the university proactively promotes the advancement of those who self-identify as women. It also has processes in place to identify and remove systemic barriers to inclusion and equity.
As a leading STEM-focused university, Waterloo is well aware that women are significantly under-represented in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math. Not only that, women are outnumbered at the senior levels of all six of the university's faculties, though well represented within the administration.
Among an array of initiatives to redress the situation, Waterloo conducted a gender pay equity review of all faculty. This resulted in an across-the-board salary adjustment. The university is currently conducting a compensation review of non-academic staff.
As a Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies, Diana Parry is well versed in women's and gender issues. Parry, recently named Associate Vice-President Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion, commends Waterloo for its approach to gender pay equity.
"While others may be loath to admit their failings, the university recognized that it has problems and took a very broad, transparent approach to addressing them," she says.
The United Nations recognized those efforts in 2015 when it invited Waterloo to help lead its HeForShe global effort to engage men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential.
The UN initiative includes the IMPACT 10X10X10, a framework involving 10 heads of state, 10 CEOs and 10 university presidents to advance gender equity. The only Canadian organization participating, Waterloo set itself three targets for 2020 that address gender equity across the entire campus.
The university has already surpassed the first target: attracting more girls and young women into STEM outreach experiences and initiatives. In 2017, 35 per cent of participants in its outreach programs, including summer camps and school clubs, were female (the goal was 33 per cent). It's also close to the other two goals: a faculty composition of 30 per cent women; and women holding 29 per cent of academic and executive positions.
"The university is taking a long-term, comprehensive, sustainable approach to gender equity," says Parry. "We can be a galvanizing force for social change across Canada." Even so, she quickly adds there is still much work to be done on a number of fronts.
Given its groundbreaking track record, Waterloo won't shy away from the challenges ahead en route to creating a safe, equitable and inclusive environment for the entire campus community. After all, as Thompson puts it, "We have every reason to want our people to be successful."