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

The Quesnel RCMP Detachment is one of seven northern police buildings which can now connect directly to Prince George for daily bail hearings. (Observer File Photo)
Bail hearings going virtual in B.C.’s north

A court pilot project will see virtual courtroom cameras set up in seven RCMP detatchments

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

The Dease Lake Airport is receiving $11-million in upgrades funded by the province, Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine and mining companies. (British Columbia Aviation Council)
Major upgrades coming to Dease Lake Airport

Airport to receive $11-million from the province, regional district and mining companies

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to table budget that’s expected to deal with COVID-19 pandemic and beyond

Robinson released a fiscal update last December that said the impact of the pandemic on B.C.’s economy was uncertain

(Photo by Mojpe/Pixabay)
Canadian kids extracting record amounts from Tooth Fairy

Our neighbours in the U.S. receive slightly less from Tooth Fairy visits

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

Paramedic Matthew Schlatter of Victoria is living a fuller life today due to the double lung transplant he received in 2019. He encourages B.C. residents to register as an organ donor and let their families know their wishes. (Instagram/Matthew Schlatter)
B.C. man living a full, active life after double-lung transplant

Matt Schlatter encourages people to register as an organ donor to help others live

Families of two of three workers killed in a train derailment near Field, B.C., in 2019 have filed lawsuits accusing Canadian Pacific of gross negligence. The derailment sent 99 grain cars and two locomotives off the tracks. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Families of workers killed in Field train derailment allege negligence in lawsuit

Lawsuits allege the workers weren’t provided a safe work environment

(New Westminster Police)
4 youth arrested after 30-person brawl in New Westminster leaves 1 seriously injured

Police are looking for witnesses who saw the incident take place

South Surrey’s Paul Cottrell, who works with the DFO, tows a grey whale out of Semiahmoo Bay Sunday. (Contributed photo)
Dead whale floating near White Rock towed to shore for necropsy

Animal has been dead since at least April 15

Most Read