Software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, has been forced to re-skill during the COVID-19 pandemic after more than six years of unsuccessfully applying for jobs in B.C.’s tech industry. (Submitted photo/Shaimma Yehia)

Software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, has been forced to re-skill during the COVID-19 pandemic after more than six years of unsuccessfully applying for jobs in B.C.’s tech industry. (Submitted photo/Shaimma Yehia)

Why skilled immigrant women continue to be shut out of B.C.’s booming tech sector

Experienced software engineer Shaimma Yehia, 40, hasn’t found a job since she migrated to Canada 6 years ago

“You can’t imagine how much immigrants are suffering,” said Shaimma Yehia, a software engineer who migrated to Canada in 2015 through the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

For many women who immigrate ready to break into the Canadian tech industry, the path to gainful employment proves more difficult than they expected.

“I found it very hard with no family support and four children who depend on me – all while I’m trying to catch up and find work in the tech industry. It seriously drained my mental health,” the Lower Mainland resident said.

Even with a degree in electronics and communications engineering and a decade of experience, the 40-year-old has only found work in B.C. as a caregiver.

Yehia applied for immigration alongside her husband, Amr, during the tumultuous Egyptian revolution of 2011.

“We were looking for a better life and better education for our children.”

Software designers and engineers remain the top occupation of those invited to apply for permanent residency through the Federal Skilled Worker Program, according to the latest government data. In 2019, 871 were invited to Canada. Most were men.

Though Yehia’s family was granted a new life due to her expertise, the software engineer said she’s been shut out of the tech market due to a lack of Canadian job experience.

In Egypt, things were more stable, Yehia said – both her and Amr were employed at big companies. Yehia worked as a team leader at IBM, overseeing IT projects worth millions.

READ MORE: Immigrants face language, financial barriers during COVID-19 crisis

“When we arrived in Canada we had to start everything from scratch,” she said.

The mother-of-four said she’s been stuck in a “vicious cycle” of IT job rejections, resulting in a six-year employment gap on her resume.

By 2017, time spent looking for work had depleted her family’s entire savings.

“I had aspirations to come to Canada and join the economy but it’s not absorbing immigrants like me,” said Yehia, who received her citizenship in September.

“All this experience, why can’t Canada make use of it?”

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated Yehia’s effort to reboot her career. While many B.C. businesses shuttered, Yehia decided to upskill.

She enrolled in a program with MOSAIC, one of Canada’s largest settlement and employment services organizations, in partnership with Vancouver-based tech company Traction on Demand.

It’s providing immigrants like Yehia with the hands-on experience needed to break into B.C.’s tech ecosystem.

“I’m one of those people who had always had big dreams and big plans for myself,” Yehia said.

“Getting the job is the first step of it.”

MORE: Fix low incomes among family-class immigrants to help Canada’s economy, says study



sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

International Women's Daytech industrytech sector

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

.
Kootenay Boundary COVID-19 cases continue to rise

Four new cases in Castlegar last week

t
Q&A with the Castlegar council candidates

Four candidates are running for one council seat

Email editor@fedwaymirror.com
LETTER: Covid blame should fall on leaders, not youth

Reader Rod Retzlaff blames leaders for COVID variant spread

A mushroom grower plans to plan new mushrooms in fallen trees in the Kaslo Community Forest. File photo
Kaslo mushroom farmer given green light for unique project

Robin Mercy will plant mushrooms in the Kaslo Community Forest

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

Most Read