The original plan was not for Emilie Leneveu to go into sales.
The 20-year-old studied biotechnology at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, and gave the valedictorian address at convocation. She calls herself a "huge chemistry girl."
"When I started looking up roles and responsibilities that were associated with sales, I realized a lot of my personality traits matched sales a lot more than with things like teaching and scientific discovery and innovation and all these things. … I think it was really finding a job that was able to connect with my skills but was more able to connect with my personality, and I think that's how I kind of fell into sales," said the agricultural sales coordinator at Sigma Agriculture, Sigma Stretch Film.
"The thing I love most about sales is the 'going after it' kind of aspect. … Having those measurable goals just really helps me and pushes me to strive to be the best sales coordinator I can be," she added.
Leneveu considers her Loyalist College program coordinator and professor Karen Holder to be her mentor and prime influence in her professional career. She showed Leneveu a scrapbook from when Holder was younger that showed lists of potential jobs for boys and girls to check off for what they want to be when they grow up. Jobs for women were nurse, mother, teacher and baker, for example.
"We had this conversation, Karen and I, and I was like, 'That's so sad. I'm so happy we have so much more equality in our time now.' And she was like, 'Well, have we, Emilie?' And when we reflect on it, realistically, it's kind of the same thing," she said.
"Sure, it's not just nurses and mothers and bakers and homemakers … but in science and math and computers you might not see as many women, so the divide is still there. … I think from that moment forward our relationship took off and we worked on a lot of projects together."
In addition to her work at Sigma, Leneveu is a program coordinator and volunteer for Let's Talk Science, and former francophone social media coordinator and alumni of Youth Science Canada. She is also in training to be a mental health speaker for Jack.org, a Canadian nonprofit organization focused on mental health and prevention of suicide.
Leneveu said that although the industry has room for improvement in terms of equality, she feels that Sigma has provided her with ample opportunities to showcase her strengths and she hopes other companies will follow suit with their own employees.
"I've been given great opportunities to utilize my strengths within the company but still see such inequality within the industry as a whole. I had a conversation with my supervisor, Patrick Gagnon, director of agricultural sales, domestic and exports, the other day and he, too, sees the divide between women and decision-making in our field of work," she said. "Both being curious in nature, we postulated over why this might be. I think that that reveals the true problem, as far as I am aware, we may understand the roots of inequality, but not fully why inequity continues to stem from them."
What advice would she give to a woman who might have not considered plastics industry as a possible career path?
"I would suggest to take every career possibility into consideration based on their personality," she said. "Just do what makes you happy and fits your personality. I think a role in the plastics industry is one that is super adaptable to any personality, and that is what is so great about the plastics industry."