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 (2019):
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 28, 2019)
Here are some of the reasons why University of Waterloo was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2019):
- University of Waterloo participates in the HeForShe campaign and committed to boosting female participation in STEM experiences, 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
- Additionally, the university's Pay Equity Office funds initiatives that advance and promote wage equality between women and men -- and the organization recently established a research grant of $80,000 per year for the next 5 years to support research and scholarship focused on gender equality
- 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
Equity is a major focus at the University of Waterloo
Recently, Professor Corey W. Johnson, a professor of recreation and leisure studies at the University of Waterloo, was approached by a teaching assistant who wanted to address her 150-student class on diversity about having been sexually assaulted on two occasions.
"I was both excited and bit reluctant," recalls Johnson, who is also the university's Applied Health Sciences Faculty Advocate for the UN's HeForShe movement. "I wanted to be sure that she would feel supported, being so vulnerable, and also that it would be a productive conversation and not one where men felt guilt-shamed for being men."
Johnson and the student worked through those concerns. After she spoke, students were asked to write about their reaction to the talk. "Some of their powerful comments included, 'I had never heard a woman talk about being sexually assaulted before,' or 'I had never realized that the statistics about rape were based on empirical data,' or 'Now I can see how my jokes or whatever have perpetuated a culture where that is still possible,'" recalls Johnson. "So, if you were to ask me when was the last time I cried as a result of watching students transform, it would have been in that class."
Johnson is one of several people at the University of Waterloo who are advancing a comprehensive and cutting-edge diversity and inclusion agenda among staff, faculty and students. Another is Dr. Diana Parry, also a professor in Johnson's department and the institution's Associate Vice-President of Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion.
She notes that Waterloo is the only Canadian entity - alongside governments, other leading universities and global businesses - invited to participate in the HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 framework, a global initiative to enlist those who identify as boys and men in helping to remove the barriers preventing girls and women from attaining their potential.
As a leading STEM-focused university well aware of the under-representation of women in science, technology, engineering and math, Waterloo set itself three HeForShe goals to be achieved by 2020, and has already met or exceeded two of them: the number of girls and women in its STEM outreach activities reached 35 per cent in 2017, ahead of the 33 per cent goal, and its proportion of women faculty grew to 30.1 per cent last year, just ahead of the targeted 30 per cent. Its third commitment is to attract and advance female leaders to senior academic and administrative positions. The university also runs a gender equity research grant program.
But gender equity is just one part of the university's wide-ranging diversity and inclusivity initiatives. The institution offers campus-wide training for students, staff and faculty on unconscious bias against not just women, but also Indigenous people, racialized groups and people with ability issues. It also hosts workshops on masculinity and on consent.
Many of these developments have come about because of the strong commitment at the top. "Our President, Feridun Hamdullahpur, has taken a stand on equity issues," says Parry, "ensuring that it's a priority at the very senior levels of the institution and providing the resources and staffing to ensure that these initiatives are well-supported across campus, which makes us very unique."
The university's Organizational & Human Development department developed a Principles of Inclusivity certificate program to explore inclusive themes and to provide practical suggestions for practising and promoting inclusivity. Each of the seven half-day workshops in the award-winning series supports and encourages participants along a personal journey of self-awareness and discovery, challenging them to question their assumptions, enhance mindful awareness, and develop an action plan to reinforce and champion inclusivity.