The field of engineering has primarily been a male-dominated sector where there is a huge gap between men and women in the workforce. However, the gender dynamics of this industry is changing with more women entering the field of study and many filling leadership roles in top engineering firms. This is good news considering 100k engineering jobs in Canada will be up for grabs from now until 2025 as current engineers begin to retire and the economy continues to grow. Engineers Canada, a national organization, released that projection in their latest report, Engineering Labour Market in Canada: Projections to 2025, which means more women have the opportunity to take advantage of the forthcoming openings.
With that said, some universities in Canada are seeing the rise in women interested in the field of engineering. For instance, University of Manitoba has seen the rate of female students increase to more than double enrollment in faculty of engineering since 2008. The number of female students went from 197 to 402 in the 2014-15 academic year. This puts the female to male ratio at 1 in 5 which is an improvement from the 1 in 7 from 2008 which also shows a dramatic increase in the overall enrollment of engineering students just from that time.
On top of that, the field of engineering has a multitude of different branches that can span from biomedical, chemical, civil, computer, electrical, mechanical, municipal, industrial and more. That means there are plenty of engineering careers that can fit a wide variety of working applications and also putting engineering recruiters up to the task of filling positions. Engineers of all kinds have a high employment demand, making the prospects of its study even more enticing for women, according to a recent article from the Huffington Post.
But what is interesting is that females have outnumbered males in universities, at the bachelor’s level, for over a decade yet closing the gap on the gender ratio in engineering has been a tough battle. When it comes to an engineering degree, various classes involving math, science and physics are often the requirements of any given branch. And perhaps the way those three subjects are thought of vastly impacts the reason why fewer females enroll into engineering programs.
This could be due to opinions and notions made early on in the classroom, stemming all the way back to 1st grade. In a report by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, they found that female and male children are exposed to certain attitudes and ideas about math and science which leads them into developing these gender-specific opinions. This can possibly shed some light on the idea of gender stereotyping regarding engineering – if at an early age females form the assumption that math and science is a male-oriented subject, then they hold on to that thought all throughout their educational careers.
How can we breakdown gender stereotyping to help more females enter the field of engineering? It needs to begin early on, just like mentioned above, to reverse the ideology that math- and science-heavy subjects are only suited for males. This is where a practicing engineer by the name of Debbie Sterling decided to fix the problem by engineering a toy for girls that would help develop their ‘building’ interests at a young age. It combines a storyline with a construction set to give girls an interesting way to invent & build things.
Practicing By The Numbers
As the interest in engineering increases for women, the province of Manitoba has also seen a boost in the number of practicing female engineers. Data from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Manitoba recorded a 120% jump of practicing female engineers in the past 10 years that went from 208 in 2006 to 458. In an effort to grow that number, one of the largest consulting engineering firms, WSP Canada, has a nationwide mission called the 30 by 30 Program that takes aim at raising the number according to the Winnipeg Free Press. They set a goal to have 30% of the new engineers licensed each year in Canada be comprised of women by 2030. Currently in the Manitoba division of the firm, 11 of the 28 local engineers and 8 of the 12 young engineers are women, so they are already ahead of their nationwide plan.
About The Author:
Jillian Johnson is a freelance writer from New Jersey who has contributed to an array of blogs of various industries, particularly business, finance and health. She freelanced for a local NJ parenting magazine “Curious Parents” magazine and wrote for her college newspaper, “The Tower,” ultimately becoming the Editor-in-Chief. Jillian holds a BA in Communications and is currently working towards a BSN.
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