Toronto Metropolitan University's Independent Student Newspaper Since 1967

All Communities

TMU women-focused groups offer members a professional safe ‘haven’

By Khushy Vashisht

With several student groups dedicated to fostering communities based on different races, religions, hobbies and more, some women at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) have also taken it upon themselves to build and contribute to supportive spaces within their programs.

From fields spanning from economics and finance to computer science and law, students have formed clubs to promote values of gender equity and inclusion in their disciplines.

Jenny Carson, an associate professor of history at TMU, said the motivation behind creating these groups is simply establishing a platform.

“When you have a predominantly male program, it’s important for women to feel like they have a space where they can come together and discuss their particular challenges which may arise from being part of a minority in a program,” she said. “The creation of solidarity among women as they navigate a space that is predominately male is important.”

TMU Women in Finance

Micaela Pantoja, a third-year international economics and finance student, is both president and founder of TMU Women in Finance (TWIF). She had the idea to create the group in December 2023 after noticing the lack of gender diversity in existing finance clubs on campus.

“From my previous experiences, I didn’t feel like my voice was heard when I was in [other] clubs”

After discussing this idea with a friend, it came into fruition and hiring call-outs for the team started to go out. Pantoja said they received over 70 applications for positions—showcasing the high demand for such a group.

“From my previous experiences, I didn’t feel like my voice was heard when I was in [other] clubs,” she said. “So, I wanted to have a group for [members] to be themselves and to speak [about] anything they want about finance.”

She shared that TWIF offers many initiatives that vary from preparing for job interviews to workshops that help members learn about investing and asset classes.

“When I was in first-year, I didn’t even know about finance and I want [women] to know from a young age since the competition is huge,” said Pantoja. “I feel in that way, they will continue learning more about it and fulfill their goals by [later] years.”

TMU Women in Computer Science

Saadia Shahid, a third-year computer science student and director of graphics for academics of TMU Women in Computer Science (WiCS), she was drawn to the group due to the community it provided.

“As a woman, it makes sense to join a place that is catered to you, making space for you,” said Shahid. “Especially knowing that computer science is a field that is heavily male dominated and women are the traditionally marginalized groups [here].”

“Also knowing from personal experiences, women need that emotional connection with each other that we don’t always get from men,” she continued. 

Shahid also said an environment like this helps women in the program, including her, gain validity and reassurance of their personal experiences with certain people and events. Thus, members are able to provide support and comfort to one another which, to her, makes the environment a “haven”.

With other women, Shahid says her connection with them can be “almost immediate,” while interacting with men in the program can use a bit of an “icebreaker.”

“I think part of that is contributed by the fact that there aren’t many women in computer science in the first place,” she said. “So you see somebody that you’re similar to and you’re like, ‘oh my god, you’re like me.’”

Shahid shared that WiCS aims to uplift and empower women to gain confidence, to learn more and to take initiatives by acting as a resource hub and showcasing solidarity.

TMU Women in Information Technology Management

Similarly, Alina Alvi, a fourth-year business technology management student and vice-president of corporate relations for Women in Information Technology Management (WITM), said the club’s goal is to “bridge the gender inequality gap in the business and IT industry.”

In her experience, there is a feeling of intimidation at times when approaching certain projects but says the support from WITM provides her with reassurance and the “verbal affirmation” she needs.

Alvi said she’s always been her own biggest critic. “I feel like because of WITM, I am as confident as I am now. When it comes to intimidation, that really does not exist for me anymore.”

“I feel like because of WITM, I am as confident as I am now”

One of WITM’s initiatives is called the “Menstruation Mission” (M2). According to their website, M2 is a “non-profit campaign that aims to provide menstrual hygiene products to homeless women and trans people in Ontario.”

Alvi said there are four components to the campaign. 

First, M2 seeks to “break the taboo surrounding menstruation by promoting open discussions about menstrual health and hygiene.”

She said the second factor is advocating accessibility of menstrual products to various demographics while the third is to support those in-need including “underserved communities and marginalized groups.”

Alvi stated the final element to be to “create an inclusive environment” and for those who do menstruate, to seek out support.

In 2019, WITM won the Best New Initiative award by the Ted Rogers Students’ Society and raised around $1,250 that same year.

An impactful moment for Alvi in the club came during its design tech hack-a-thon in the fall 2023 semester. 

A group of four first-year students gave a presentation in front of a panel of judges in a “case competition.” One of the judges was very impressed with the four women and invited them to present to his company’s team—with one of them even landing a job interview.

“Seeing the students accomplish something so significant thanks to WITM’s platform was truly inspiring and it really reinforces the organization’s mission,” said Alvi. “I have never seen something like that in four years of WITM and I was so happy to be part of it.”

TMU Women in Law

Dyana Abdul-Khalek, a third-year law and business student as well as president of TMU Women in Law (WIL), said she joined the group as an associate of events in her second year due to feeling a disconnect from her program.

“I faced a lot of imposter syndrome and I wasn’t sure I was passionate about becoming a lawyer,” said Abdul-Khalek. “Acknowledging it’s a male dominated industry and based on these events it wasn’t helping me break that ceiling or out of my shell.”

“Ultimately, that was the epiphany that I had that helped me join Women in Law,” she continued.

“So you see somebody that you’re similar to and you’re like, ‘oh my god, you’re like me’”

WIL’s goal is to help break barriers by providing resources to further women professionally right from their undergraduate journey. Abdul-Khalek said she wants members to “feel empowered, confident and inspired” no matter whether or not they pursue law.

“You do not have to feed into that stigma or that stereotype and you are not limited,” said Abdul-Khalek.

TMU Women of Colour in Law

At TMU, there are two clubs for women who are interested in or curious about pursuing a career in law—the second being exclusive to women of colour. 

Roseleen Ladi, a third-year criminology student and co-president of TMU Women of Colour in Law (WocInLaw), said the group wants to address the lack of diversity in the legal field and the challenges women of colour, in particular, face in comparison to their white and male counterparts.

“We want to do this by uplifting women aspiring to enter the field through a lot of curated opportunities and resources that allows them to address that underrepresentation and feel empowered in their identity and feel that [they] can take up space in there,” said Ladi. “It’s very much a space for [them] as well.”

She said WocInLaw takes a more “intersectional approach” to the legal field by highlighting both the gender and racial inequalities persistent in the industry. 

Carson, the associate professor, said the specificity of groups such as WocInLaw are “understandable.”

“Within my own studies, Black women often did form their own sort of alliances and networks independent of white women workers because the challenges they faced were specific to racism and sexism and classism,” she said. 

Carson added that she understands different challenges Black women face and why they create their own spaces away from white women.

Ladi shared that WocInLaw have hosted networking events which have provided members with confidence after seeing professionals who come from diverse backgrounds.

“It allows them to get advice from individuals who have experienced the similar hardships or roadblocks that they have,” she said.

“You do not have to feed into that stigma or that stereotype and you are not limited”

TMU Women in Economics

Samrah Siddiqui, a third-year international economics and finance student as well as co-president of TMU Women in Economics (WIEC), created the group in January 2024 because the discipline wasn’t spoken about much in relation to women.

“It’s mostly facilitated by men, no one really cares for it [when it comes to] women,” she said. “There’s not [many] women in economics, and the ones that are, don’t get that light.”

In her experiences in other economics clubs prior to creating WIEC, Siddiqui found that not many men were willing to network with women and found the “awkwardness” of the situation upsetting to exist at a university level. 

Siddiqui’s goal with creating WIEC is to promote economics as something women can pursue and not let it solely have the label of “a boy’s club.”

“I want to make it so women are prepared for the future and are a couple steps ahead. Because when you’re plastered with the mindset of not being able to walk the same path as men, a lot of people end up not going down that route,” she said.

Currently, Siddqui, alongside her two co-presidents, Nabiha Tonoya and Kaavya Sivaraj, are in the hiring process of team members.

In a year’s time, she hopes to see the group branch out into hosting networking events and creating something unique to differentiate themselves from other student groups.

“I’m excited to [officially] start [WIEC] and meet new people because it’s been three years and I haven’t met many, specifically girls, who [study] economics and finance,” said Siddiqui.

Carson said the impact of women seeing people that reflect them in their profession can be beneficial to their self-esteem.

“Talking to those women can be important too and knowing what the challenges can be going into that profession is really valuable to have,” said Carson. “It’s a celebratory thing where you see someone that looks like you succeeding in a space where most people that don’t look like you is empowering.”

Leave a Reply