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

Just Posted

Gerry Thiessen, mayor of Vanderhoof shown talking to students on May 17. Thiessen and other members of council officially announced that the rainbow crosswalk will be a reality. They were ready to paint a few lines of of paint onto the crosswalk, but weather wasn’t suitable for it. District staff will be jumping onto the project as soon as the weather allows it. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
School District 91 holds first ‘Share the Love Day’

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia recognized

Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. Toxic illicit drugs have claimed the lives of 498 British Columbians in the first three months of 2021, said the BC Coroners Service. (BCEHS photo)
Increase in overdose cases a concern: Fort St. James RCMP

Police issue public health announcement

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

A forest of dance-protesters outside the BC Legislature on April 11. These participants were doing the Dance for the Ancient Forest in support of the Fairy Creek blockade and against old-growth logging. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Arrests begin at Fairy Creek blockade on Vancouver Island

Five protesters arrested as RCMP begin to enforce injunction

A thunderstorm pictured in Fraser Valley in 2021. (Black Press Media/Jaimie Grafstrom)
Wildfire concerns sparked after 320+ lightning strikes blasted B.C. yesterday

Approximately one-quarter of the province is currently listed as being at moderate risk of fire

A restaurant server on White Rock’s Marine Drive serves customers on a roadside patio. Indoor dining and recreational travel bans have been in effect since late March in B.C. (Peace Arch News)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate falls to 411 cases Tuesday

360 people in hospital, up slightly, two more deaths

The Banff National Park entrance is shown in Banff, Alta., Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Minister asks Canadians to camp carefully in national parks as season starts

Kitchen shelters in Banff National Park closed, trails on Vancouver Island will only be one-way

Names of those aboard the ship are seen at Komagata Maru monument in downtown Vancouver, on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. The City of Vancouver has issued an apology for its racist role in denying entry to 376 passengers aboard a ship that was forced to return to India over a century ago. Mayor Kennedy Stewart says discrimination by the city had “cruel effects” on the Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims aboard the Komagata Maru, which arrived in Burrard Inlet on May 23, 1914. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says sorry for city’s role in turning away South Asians in 1914

Kennedy Stewart has declared May 23 as the annual Komagata Maru Day of Remembrance

A crew of WestCoast WILD Adventures employees tackled an onslaught of litter left at the ‘Locks of Love’ fence at Wally Creek on May 2. (Anne-Marie Gosselin photo)
Litter woes consume popular ‘Locks of Love’ fence on B.C.’s Pacific Rim

Popular view spot near Tofino plagued by people hanging masks and other unwanted garbage

Vincent Doumeizel, senior advisor at the United Nations Global Compact on Oceans, as well as director for the Food Programme for the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, pulls up some sugar kelp seaweed off the French coast in April 2020. He was the keynote speaker during the opening ceremony of the inaugural Seaweed Days Festival. (Vincent Doumeizel/Submitted)
Let’s hear it for seaweed: slimy, unsexy and the world’s greatest untapped food source

Experts talks emerging industry’s challenges and potential at Sidney inaugural Seawood Days Festival

Troy Patterson, a Cadboro Bay 15-year-old, got a virtual meeting with B.C.’s environment minister months after he started an online petition calling for construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline to stop. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
B.C. teen’s 23,000-name Coastal GasLink petition gets him an audience with the minister

15-year-old Saanich high school student and George Heyman discussed project for about 30 minutes

Most Read