The research that was part of my Master of Arts in Leadership for Royal Roads Leadership has come to a close. On September 8, 2019, my final report was submitted to my faculty, and on September 9, 2019, it was received and submitted to the School of Leadership Studies as approved.


This research could not have been completed without the voices of the women who chose to share their experiences by responding through an online survey, and by agreeing to be interviewed. They honoured me by trusting me with their stories and their vulnerabilities, and they will forever have my deepest gratitude. Special thanks go to my research partner, Denise Christopherson, CEO of the YWCA of Hamilton who believed in the value of the question, the action of gathering these women’s stories, and the quest of creating positive social change. I am grateful for the support of the leaders of my community partner organizations, David Carter of Innovation Factory (IF), Keanin Loomis of Hamilton Chamber of Commerce (HCC), and Kristin Huigenbois of the City of Hamilton’s Small Business Enterprise Center (now Hamilton Business Centre), who saw the value in the research, and to Andrea Davies of the YWCA, Brigitte Huard of IF, and Marie Nash of HCC for doing all the leg work and amplifying the call-to-action and sharing it amongst their networks. Notable thanks to my inquiry team member Nick Diduck, whose support as a friend and learning partner was untiring and unwavering. My sincere thanks go to my academic supervisor, Marie Graf, for her encouragement and expertise in helping me craft and present a research product that I am proud of. Lastly, my husband, Victor Schulman Dupuis is the one that is most directly responsible for this research. His encouragement and support, financially, materially, and emotionally ensured that I had the space and resources needed to set forth on this academic journey two years ago and bring light to this important question. We should all be so lucky to be surrounded by such privilege and love.

You may download the final report here, and a presentation in pdf format has been created which highlights the key findings and recommendations from this research.


A woman’s leadership trajectory in a company or organization is often fraught with gender-based challenges and pointed disruption. Whether it’s the “glass ceiling”, the “glass cliff”, or outright harassment, stories as to why women leave these toxic environments are plentiful and well documented. In fact, we’ve been talking about how women’s careers are disrupted for over fifty years.

The focus of my research is women (or women-identifying individuals) aged 40-64 from the Hamilton, Ontario area (including Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Stoney Creek, and Waterdown) who identify as having had their careers disrupted. The purpose of my research is to capture their stories to generate insights regarding how they responded to that disruption, and identify the resources or support that may or may not have existed for them. My hope is that their stories inform a new way forward and ignite a positive and a purposeful system-wide response from community organizations in Hamilton, Ontario that support women and their economic empowerment. I’m proud to be partnered in this research with YWCA of Hamilton and its CEO, Denise Christopherson.



Centering Women’s Voices for Social Change



My name is Karen Schulman Dupuis, and this research project is part of the requirement for my Master of Arts, Leadership at Royal Roads University. My credentials with Royal Roads University can be verified by contacting Dr. Catherine Etmanski, Director, School of Leadership Studies: or 250-391-2600 ext. 4162.


Why this work matters to me

When I was 46, I found myself in the midst of a huge career disruption. I had left a full-time role, and I was having a really hard time finding new work. I simply wasn’t getting called for interviews, even though I had been part of my sector for almost 20 years. In talking to my friends, I realized that many of them were also experiencing the same kind of disruption to their careers; firings, lay-offs, lack of promotion, or the feeling of being purposefully left out of decisions and opportunities for growth. Many of my friends and acquaintances were just stepping out, and turning to consulting or starting a new business on their own. This kind of thing got me thinking; is it just me and my friends, or is there something else going on here?



Photo by  Edu Lauton  on  Unsplash

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash



A link to the survey is below.

The following information discusses options for your participation in the study, benefits and risks, members of my inquiry team, conflict of interest, confidentiality and the security of your data, how I will be sharing results, and how you can withdraw from the study.

Please keep a copy of this information letter for your records, or download a copy of it here.


The research will start with an anonymous survey. The survey will be conducted online, and the results saved via Google Drive; your responses are 100% confidential and 100% anonymous. The survey is expected to take from two (2) minutes to 20 minutes to complete; it all depends on how much you want to share.

At the end of the survey, there may be a question asking if you’re willing to participate in a one-on-one, confidential interview to further discuss your experience (an invitation may not be presented if the maximum number of interviews has been reached). Your story and your identity will be 100% confidential and 100% anonymous. If you would like to talk further, you will click the “YES” web form button; an email will pop up, pre-populated with my email address, and when you click ‘send’, this will inform me that you’re interested in participating in an interview. In response, I will invite you to schedule an interview with me, at your convenience. The interview isn’t a requirement; it’s totally voluntary. The interviews may take from 30 minutes to one hour.

At the end of your interview, you will be invited to produce and share something creative, to express how your experience of disruption made you feel. That could look like anything; a photo, a piece of artwork, a cross-stitch, a painting, an audio recording…it’s entirely up to you, and again, it’s totally voluntary. Doing the interview does not mean you need to create anything. Your words are gift enough.

Benefits & risks to participation


As a participant in this research, the benefits you may experience by contributing to this research may look and feel like feeling empowered and validated for having their experience articulated.

My partner may be actively partaking in the closing of the gaps that currently exist in helping women when their careers are disrupted, lessening the duplication of services, and/or fostering further collaboration amongst the inquiry team member organizations and other community members.

As a society, when women’s economic empowerment is fully realized, there is the potential to create the equivalent of a new financial sector in GDP for Canada alone (McKinsey, 2017). This will have a profound effect on the lives of women, their immediate families, and their extended communities in Canada, and the world.

As the researcher, the successful completion of this research and my follow-up reporting will allow me to obtain my Master of Arts, Leadership degree, likely help me extend my professional network, contribute towards women’s economic empowerment in the Hamilton region, expand my understanding and awareness of gendered ageism in the workplace, and counter the experience of women aged 40-64 being deemed socially invisible.


By participating in this research, it could result in some minor discomfort that will occur when you recall sad, stressful, or hurtful memories, but nothing more than you would encounter from day to day. I’ve made sure I’ve collected a number of resources that will be ready to help you in case you’re not at your best afterwards.

Inquiry team

There are four community partners that are part of my Inquiry Team: Denise Christopherson from YWCA Hamilton, the Innovation Factory, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Hamilton’s Small Business Enterprise Centre. Nicholas Diduck is a classmate of mine and he’ll be helping to review my draft questions, methods, and research findings. The inquiry team members will review my questions, help me connect with their different communities, and they help to make sure that my data and reporting is well constructed and complete. No members of the Inquiry Team will be involved in knowing who the participants are in the survey, and they will not be able to access any of the data from the survey or the interviews. The design of this research ensures that they will not find themselves in a situation where they have power over any of the participants.

Real or Perceived Conflict of Interest

There are no issues of real or perceived conflict of interest. If there are any changes to the nature of the extended relationship between me or any of the inquiry team partner organizations, this will be referenced explicitly in the call-to-action from the partners.

Confidentiality, security of data, & retention period

I will work to protect your privacy and dignity throughout this study. All information I collect will be maintained in strictest confidence. All electronic data will be stored on a password-protected portable hard drive which will have two-factor authentication enabled. All hard copies will be stored in a locked security box in my home office, and destroyed one year after I graduate. I expect to graduate in January 2020. At no time will any specific interviews or insights be attributed to any individual.

In the event that your survey response is processed and stored in the United States, you are advised that its governments, courts, or law enforcement and regulatory agencies may be able to obtain disclosure of the data through the laws of the United States.


Sharing results

In addition to submitting my final report to Royal Roads University in partial fulfillment for a Masters of Arts in Leadership at Royal Roads University, I will also be sharing my research findings in the form of a final report with the leadership of the following organizations: Innovation Factory (IF), the Small Business Enterprise Centre (SBEC), the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s (HCC), and the YWCA Hamilton (YWCA); my Inquiry Team members.

Participants will receive a copy of the report upon request. It is possible that the results of this research may be part of an article, a conference presentation, or another kind of knowledge product in the future.

The final report will also be posted on this website after it is presented to my university and partnering organizations.


Procedure for withdrawing from the study

Notices of consent will be provided to all survey respondents at the onset of the survey. Withdrawing from the survey can happen at any time, and by not submitting content at the end of the survey. If you decide to work with me for a confidential interview, we will make arrangements together via email to meet up in a place that works for us both, and there will be a new letter of consent that will be provided to you that you will receive when we meet in real life for the interview. These letters will outline the purpose, risks, and benefits of the study. The letter will describe the format and timing of the various data collection methods and outline how my findings will be shared with my community partners. Participants will be assured that while their experiences, responses, and observations will be shared, their identities will be anonymized.

The consent letter will emphasize that participation is entirely voluntary, and anyone can withdraw at any time. By choosing to submit in the survey, or by signing the in-person consent form, you indicate that you have read and understand the information above and give your free and informed consent to participate in these surveys, interviews, or by sharing your creative piece.

Are you ready to access to the survey? Please click here.