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International Women’s Day 2019: Let’s work together to #InnovateforChange in the engineering profession


By: Annette Bergeron, MBA, FCAE, FEC, P.Eng. and Gerard McDonald, MBA, P.Eng.

International Women’s Day 2019 imageCurrently, women account for just 13.1 per cent of engineers in Canada.

In a country where women make up 50 per cent of the population, this is a stark divergence. We must do better to achieve greater gender balance in the engineering profession. We must #InnovateforChange in engineering.

March 8 is International Women’s Day, and Engineers Canada is proud to join organizations, groups, governments, and individuals around the world in celebrating the many social, political, economic, and other achievements made by women.

But the day is also an opportunity to reflect on what we are doing—as individuals, as organizations, as a profession—to attract more women into engineering, to retain them in the profession, and to achieve a greater gender balance in engineering.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme in Canada, #InnovateforChange, is a strong call to break down the barriers facing women in STEM; to unleash new ideas and solutions that will transform our society and strengthen our economy. It’s a call to work together to create more opportunities for women and girls in STEM.

Our work isn’t just limited to International Women’s Day—our work on this continues every day of the year. In fact, the Engineers Canada Board last year made the recruitment, retention, and professional development of women in the engineering profession a priority for Engineers Canada in our new strategic plan.

Key to this work is bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to collaborate and work together to achieve 30 by 30—our goal to raise the percentage of newly licensed engineers who are women to 30 per cent by the year 2030. We’ve built a network of more than 35 Champions from engineering regulators, post-secondary institutions, and associations who are leading the charge in their respective organizations to work towards 30 by 30. We recently held a consultation with the Champions and received an incredible amount of feedback on action plans that will #InnovateforChange in the gender balance of our profession.

We are seeing progress—for example, we are seeing an increase in the enrolment of women in engineering programs—but there is still more work to do. We need to make sure these young women are supported to stay in the profession. We need to promote pay equity, parental leave top-ups, childcare supports, flexible hours, and networking and mentorship programs to ensure our workplaces are welcoming to all genders.

And we need male allies. To truly #InnovateforChange, we need to work together. So on this International Women’s Day, we’re calling on engineers who are men to take at least one action towards balancing the profession. From speaking out against harassment or micro-aggressions, to being a mentor or a sponsor – someone who actively advocates and helps to advance a woman’s career and those of others, to supporting a woman colleague’s career advancement, to nominating a woman engineer to your regulator’s council, take action to facilitate the gender balance in our profession!

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to reflect on the work that we’re doing to make the engineering profession more representative of Canadian society—and on what more all of us can do year-round. Whether we are a woman or a man; whether we work in industry, or government, or the not-for-profit sector; whether we are an engineering student, an EIT, or a professional engineer; everyone has a role to play in diversity. It’s when we all work together that we can successfully #InnovateforChange and make real progress towards greater gender balance in the engineering profession.