The Hub for Canadian Women in STEM

Journey ELLA


“Stepping Stones” 


A biologist with a Masters, Ph.D., and a post doctorate in molecular biology, Ella was an associate researcher and lab manager in Israel before moving to Canada. Her diverse research fields stretched from basic science through microbiology to developing novel models for Alzheimer’s disease research. Ella understood that, in order to advance her career in a new country, she would need to take a step back and start another post-doctoral fellowship. She felt her professional experience was overlooked because of her move to another country. Ella was able to secure a second postdoctoral research position at a lab focusing on cancer research. Being a post doctorate fellow was a huge step back for her. That was very disheartening for Ella.

Feeling underemployed and underutilized, she focused on working very hard in order to regain her professional status and recognition from her peers and the local STEM community. She was putting in long hours, including weekends, in an effort to prove herself and her capabilities. However, she still felt she was at a disadvantage being among colleagues that were significantly younger and mostly single, while she had a family with three young children. She started feeling that the road towards achieving her professional goals was getting less and less attainable. She even considered leaving science and research altogether. 

It wasn’t until a colleague who had worked with her before, and knew her capabilities and expertise, contacted her about developing and leading a Toronto-based lab. That is when she felt she started regaining her status within the field. With this new-found confidence, she became aware of how underutilization and underemployment devalue the expertise that immigrant women, and women in general, bring to the STEM fields. Now that she feels back on track, she dedicates a portion of her time to help other immigrant women trained in STEM face the challenges of immigration. 

Photography: Courtesy of Ella