By: Gerard McDonald, MBA, P.Eng., Engineers Canada CEO
April 11, 2018, is the International Day of Pink. Today, Engineers Canada staff are proudly wearing pink to take a stand against discrimination and bullying in engineering and in all communities. This is part of an international effort to raise awareness of bullying and discrimination, especially prejudice based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The day was started in Nova Scotia in 2007 by two straight high school students who saw a gay student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. The two students were so affected by what they saw that they organized their entire school to wear pink a few days later in solidarity. The Day of Pink is now an annual celebration of diversity and an opportunity to raise awareness to stop all forms of bullying in schools, workplaces, and communities around the world.
As we work towards diversity in the engineering profession, including increasing women’s participation and that of Indigenous peoples, we need to look at the existing culture of our workplaces, our classrooms, and our professional environments. Discrimination can take many forms, including racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism, colonialism, and antisemitism. Examples of these still exist in engineering workplaces—as they do in many workplaces—and they can lead to bullying, harassment, hate, and violence. They create barriers and mistreatment of individuals who wish to pursue their dreams through an engineering career.
Employers and organizations have a responsibility in creating safe and healthy work environments for engineers, and many have workplace violence and harassment policies in place to protect their employees and promote and safe and health work environment. Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), for example, has an Anti-Workplace Violence and Harassment Policy that defines how PEO will mitigate the risks of workplace violence, and how it will investigate and respond to reports of harassment, bullying, or violence. Randstad Canada similarly has a strong Workplace Violence and Harassment Policy that outlines management and employee/contractor commitments to prevent, report, and investigate incidents of harassment. While policies are not always enough to change workplace cultures, they are a first step. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety is another resource for addressing bullying in the workplace.
No one should have to face discrimination or harassment in any environment. We wear pink today in recognition of this, but our commitment to ending bullying and building diversity in engineering continues year-round. We commit ourselves and the engineering profession to making real progress to eliminate bullying and to inspire allyship.