Women make up more than half of the Canadian population but are significantly underrepresented in engineering education and in the engineering profession. Over the past decades, the number of women enrolled in post-secondary engineering programs has risen, as has the number of women in the engineering profession. Yet despite steady increases in the representation of women, men still vastly outnumber women in engineering.
In the Engineers Canada Strategic Plan, 2019-2021, the Engineers Canada Board made the recruitment, retention, and professional development of women in the engineering profession one of four strategic priorities for the organization, and directed Engineers Canada to develop goals and action plans for all three of these areas. Engineers Canada consulted regulators and 30 by 30 Champions on the three areas and published an Environmental Scan on the current state and context of the 30 by 30 initiative. This work is primarily carried out through Engineers Canada’s 30 by 30 initiative, which has as its goal raising the percentage of newly licensed engineers who are women to 30 per cent by the year 2030. Thirty per cent is held as the tipping point for sustainable change—reaching 30 by 30 will help drive cultural change in the engineering profession, supporting even greater involvement of women in the profession.
Men as allies
Achieving gender equity in engineering requires the active involvement of men and boys. Men continue to disproportionately influence workplace culture, decision-making processes, and the advancement of women within the profession. Men need to become active supporters for women’s empowerment, mobilizing resources and institutional and cultural clout to ensure women are given equal access to success in engineering. The leadership of men in engineering for gender equity is also a great example for young boys and how they define the values of manhood and perceive workplace culture. It can have a powerful impact when men speak out for women’s rights and challenge their own attitudes and behaviours, or those of others.
Research on women in engineering
In order to influence the number of licensed engineers who are women, we need to understand the rates of participation of girls and women at various points during the engineering continuum, as well as the barriers and tactics that are successfully reducing those barriers for women.
Engineers Canada supports the research work of Engendering Success in STEM (ESS), a seven year joint research project between the University of British Columbia, the University of Guelph, Simon Fraser University, the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, Ohio State University, and Monash University, that aims to test the long-term efficacy of interventions that harness the power of positive social interactions to mitigate subtle gender bias. They are working on identifying which organizational practices best predict an inclusive and supportive workplace culture that maximizes organizational commitment and productivity for both men and women. Preliminary results can be found on the ESS website.
International Women in Engineering Day
Every year on June 23, Engineers Canada joins individuals and organizations around the world in celebrating International Women in Engineering Day. While Engineers Canada and others work year-round to increase the representation of women in engineering, International Women in Engineering Day is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the achievements of women in engineering, share our successes, and bring even more attention to the need to continue this important work throughout the year.