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

LETTER: Langley man oblivious walkers, runners and cyclists need to tune out

People with ear buds or headphones often unaware of the dangers around them, letter writer says

Previously, Aldergrove Sea Monkeys swimmers trained while passing one another in the same lane at the ACUCC pool. (Aldergrove Star files)
Aldergrove ‘micromonkeys’ ready to hit the pool

Sea Monkey’s swim club has opened registration for age four and up for lessons May 3 to June 2

Bike events like the 2018 Valley Granfondo in Fort Langley drew thousands of cyclists. (Langley Advance Times files)
Our View: Cycling boom will have long-term implications for Canada

All the people who took to two wheels in the last year will change our politics

Twilight Drive-In in Aldergrove (Aldergrove Star files)
Godzilla, King Kong, and the Virgin Mary take over Twilight Drive-In

Horror movie, The Unholy, will play all next week after final showing of Godzilla VS. Kong

The Langley School District issues COVID-19 notifications when cases are discovered at local public school. Fraser Health handles contact tracing and all medical aspects for all local schools. (Langley Schools)
Positive COVID test at RE Mountain Secondary

10 schools in the Langley District have had exposures

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

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

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read