By Alison Rockley
The enrollment of women in engineering has significantly risen since the 1960’s, when women first started entering this field. And trends across universities show that this number is going to keep rising. Queen’s University has one of the highest rates of female engineers in major Canadian universities.
The percentage of women in engineering at Queen’s was 23% in 2008, and rose to 28.1% in 2010. Even the number of girls in male-dominated disciplines, such as engineering physics, is rising.
Two of the top academic positions in engineering at Queen’s are held by women: Dean of Engineering Kim Woodhouse and Associate Dean Lynann Clapham. Professor Clapham has mentioned that women are more attracted to the collaborative nature of Queen’s engineering.
Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) is an organization at Queen’s that promotes education of women in the science and engineering disciplines and creates awareness of opportunities available to women. Throughout the year, they do a number of outreach programs for girls in the Kingston community, as well as an annual ‘Dinner with Industry’ conference. Some of their outreach programs include attending Girl Guide meetings to help girls work towards science badges, and volunteering with elementary girls (grades 4-6) to organizing science and engineering related events. As well, WISE runs EngSci Day twice a year, which introduces girls across Ontario to science and engineering. Heather Murdock of Engineers Without Borders has said “we need to redefine our outreach programs and promote engineers as creative problem-solvers who apply technology to benefit society. This re-branding could be very helpful in recruiting a more diverse engineering student body.”
Historically, women have made many great accomplishments in the science and engineering world. For example, Marie Curie is famous for her research on radioactivity, paving the way for her to become one of history’s most famed female scientists. She was also the first female to win a Nobel Prize, and the only woman to win in two fields. Currently, Linda Cureton is NASA’s Chief Information Office (CIO), where she provides leadership to transform management of IT capabilities to support and enable NASA’s missions. Marissa Mayer is presently the CEO of Yahoo, the first woman to assume that role. She was one of the top 20 employees at Google, and the company’s first female engineer where she helped Google develop search technologies.
There are many initiatives that promote engineering to women and increase future growth potential. The Society of Women Engineers, based out of the United States, aims to help women achieve their full potential in careers as engineers by informing the general public of qualifications and achievements of women. GoldieBlox is a construction toy for girls created in 2012 by Debbie Sterling, an engineering graduate from Stanford University. The objective of the toy is to promote engineering to girls at a young age, and teach basic engineering principles
Engineers Canada reports that in 2012, 10.5% of the country’s total registered engineers were women. The organization has a strategic objective to have 30% of licensed engineers be women by the year 2030 (an initiative nicknamed “30 by 30”). Suzelle Barrington of Engineers Canada has stated that “Canada produces approximately 50% of the engineers we need, and filling that gap will require increased recruitment of women and other minorities”. Through continued support of programs with the initiative to promote science and engineering to women, the numbers will continue to rise in the future. •