Priscilla Kosseim: A student entrepreneur advocates for gender equal workforce

By Lui Xia Lee, Journalism, Carleton University

Priscilla Kosseim comes into the room dragging a piece of carry-on luggage as if she’s just arrived from a business trip.

Kosseim, a fourth-year Carleton University student, founding member and president of the Carleton University Women in Business (CUWIB) association, points to her luggage.

“That’s my workload for today,” she says.

It just so happens she’s arrived from her meeting with a potential speaker for CUWIB’s conference, A World of Opportunities, happening March 2, 2017.

Kosseim says the conference will be her association’s largest event. This comes after the association was founded five months ago, in September 2016. This conference aims to help both students and professionals to network, thrive in the workforce and discuss workplace inequalities.

“We wanted to not just focus on business but to find what links business to other fields,” she says.

 “The panelists who are coming are people who can make an impact to create gender equality in organizations and are working towards that as well.”

Among the panelists are the president of United Nations Women Canada, a senior consultant at Environics Communications and a Saskatchewan senator.

Kosseim says there will be panels discussing a range of topics from health to law.

She adds she was first inspired to create CUWIB and organize the conference after facing workplace inequalities herself and hearing it from other women in different conferences.

“There aren’t many women who are CEOs in Canada and there are even less in the top 100 earning individuals in Canada,” she says. “It really is something people should be mindful and aware of.”

Only two out of the top 100 highest paid CEOs for 2016 are women — Linda Hasenfratz

and Dawn L. Farrel, according to a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Kosseim says she’s been asked to do more “women-oriented” tasks, like drafting meeting notes and cleaning an area, than the tasks she’s been hired to do in past working experiences.

“I don’t mind doing things like that but when you realized it’s basically only women who were asked to do those tasks, you see that’s kind of a problem,” she says.

Regardless of its name, Women in Business doesn’t necessarily mean the club is only for women, she says.

“We try to educate all our members on how to openly discuss inequalities because … a man can be a majority but he can be a minority [as well] if he’s an African-American, if he’s a Muslim, if he’s a First Nation, if he has a disability or if he’s from the LGBTQ community,” Kosseim says.

Her association also wants to help empower minorities to gain skills that make them worth hiring in terms of abilities, says Kosseim.

“It’s not because you're a minority that you should be hired,” Kosseim says as her head nods spiritedly. “It’s more because of the set of skills you can bring to the table that reinforces the company that you should be hired.”

Besides being active with on-campus activities, Kosseim currently works part-time at her uncle’s accounting firm in Montreal and runs her own marketing company, Get Social with Cilla.

She says her marketing company first started around three years ago after her friend, Cassandra Di Marzio, asked her for help to promote her makeup artistry company, Cassee Makeup Artistry.

“I thought it was just silly, like why would I get involved in this field?” she says. “But I helped out and grew her company so much that she got a movie deal.”

 Despite her busy schedule, Kosseim says she manages all this because she likes being busy.

“I think if I stopped moving, I would probably bore myself to the point that I would be comatose, as my mom so nicely puts it,” she says giggling.

She says it probably started when she was a child, as she was raised by a single mom and was involved in many activities.

“I competed in [figure] skating, skiing, chess, piano, flute, swimming, diving and did ballet but working was more to teach me the value of money,” Kosseim says. “My mom taught me to be self-sufficient and if I wanted something, I was going to work to get it.”

She says as she smiles that she has a good support system back home from her friends and family.

“They’re kind of the core of who I am,” Kosseim says. “They’ve helped build the person I am.”

Kosseim says she hopes people will be happy with the outcome of the conference.

“I hope people will leave it satisfied and enlightened, and that they felt some kind of growth happen from beginning to the end.”