WiDS Sponsor Spotlight – Thales Canada
This week, we hear from Cara Salci, Vice President, Strategy & Government Relations, Thales Canada, discussing the importance of diversity in the workforce and the power of mentorship.
1. What does being a sponsor of WiDS mean to your organization?
Engaging with WiDS and sponsoring its activities are an important way for Thales to support the next generation of women in the sector, as well as contribute to increased diversity and inclusion in defence and security in Canada. WiDS is also shining a light on important topics like mental health and wellness, contributing to positive change and stimulating important conversations to advance inclusivity in the workplace.
2. Why is it important to support/promote the advancement of women in careers in the defence and security industry?
We know that diverse teams are more innovative, more effective and ultimately result in better business outcomes. In our sector, this results in the delivery of better capabilities to our partners on the front lines. The mentorship and promotion of the advancement of women in the defence and security sector is important because it highlights to young leaders in that opportunities do exist for growth and advancement. It also demonstrates the breadth and depth of talent that is required to support the continued advancement of Canada’s defence and security sector.
3. What role do organizations like yours play in breaking down the barriers and cultivating an inclusive and diverse culture?
As a global technology leader, and as a contributor to Canada’s innovation ecosystem, Thales helps to highlight the value of a diverse culture through a number of initiatives. This includes internal mentorship programs and our Smart-Working programs offering employees flexibility in where and how they perform their work. We also actively engage in external activities including partnering with Technovation, a global technology and entrepreneurship program for school-age girls interested in STEM, and through the Canadian Industrial Leadership Award – a program that we launched with g L3Harrris and CAE for undergraduate female students…offering them both industrial experience and executive mentorship.
4. As a leader, what is some advice you would give to women entering this industry?
This industry is collaborative, it is innovative and it is competitive. My experience has been that people working in our industry are loyal, honest and committed to providing the best capabilities to their customers, who are so often our women and men in uniform. My first piece of advice would be to ask questions, even when it might feel uncomfortable to speak up. Be yourself, even if it might be tempting to try to mirror others; what drives diversity are our different approaches to any given challenge. Find a mentor, male or female, who you trust, who can support you and share their experience with you. Never stop learning.
This industry is deep and complex, take advantage of professional development activities whether it’s a year-long program or a 3-day course. Learning deepens our understanding and builds our networks. Engage with colleagues from different departments and projects and participate in industry-wide events and associations. My personal experience has been that engaging with others is reciprocated 10-fold. Finally, pay-it-forward. It might be a short call with a colleague to brainstorm on an issue or it might be a coffee with someone looking to join the sector but investing time in others and sharing your experiences is another way in which we can continue to grow the diversity and inclusiveness of our sector.
5. How have you and your team adapted to the changing world due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has of course presented us, both as an organization and as individuals, with numerous challenges – and I think the adaptation is ongoing as we move through this crisis. In Canada, across every market that we serve, our businesses were designated as essential. We were fortunate to have existing and established ways to work remotely given our global footprint. And, while the shift to remote work was very different from on-site work, given the existing tools that we had in place and our familiarity with working and engaging with teams from around the world, it was an easier transition for most of our team. Further, while we continued to test the limits of our internal technological tools, our IT teams worked in real-time to take employee feedback and further increase the capability for our teams to work remotely.
Like all organizations, we had to learn to adapt quickly to new information and health and safety guidelines and unique requirements for any given geography. We had already begun implementing our Smart Working initiative and the pandemic accelerated that plan. It also provided an opportunity for managers to engage their teams and establish shared charters that articulated how any given team would work together.
We surveyed our team early on to get a pulse on how people were adapting to the changes and what improvements we could make. Regular virtual town-halls and weekly email updates helped to keep everyone informed. We included important business and safety updates in these updates, as well as the promotion of ergonomic tips, mental health resources, and even the sharing of our favourite recipes. This way of working and communicating is now the norm, along with virtual social events and activities to help stay connected and engaged.