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Engineers Canada starts 30 by 30 initiative that promotes women in engineering

February 25, 2019

Recently, there has been a strong push towards gaining and retaining a higher percentage of women in the engineering profession. For the past three years, the figure across Canada has been 17.9%, but with the 30 by 30 initiative brought forward by Engineers Canada, raising this percentage to 30 should be an achievable goal. There has long been a gender disparity within the STEM fields, and Engineers Canada is committed to breaking down that barrier.

30 by 30 is the commitment made by Engineers Canada, in collaboration with the 12 provincial and territorial engineering regulators, to raise the percentage of newly licensed engineers who are women to 30 per cent by the year 2030. – Engineers Canada.

“Engineers Canada wants more women to be role models who make engineering more mainstream,” Sandy Birrell, Mechanical Engineer in the Whitehorse, Yukon Stantec office says. Sandy has been a member with Engineers Canada for two years, right around the time the 30 by 30 initiative took place. “Here in the Yukon, we’ve seen our statistics already go up quite dramatically, which shows we are a welcoming place for women to practice engineering,” Sandy says.

What Sandy says is true: the highest percentage of newly licensed female engineers is in the Yukon. “I think it’s important to be welcoming and supportive to women in the industry,” Sandy says, “It’s appealing for women to work in the Yukon, and I think it makes a big difference when young engineers see that there are other women practicing and can reach out to get the answers and support they need in their fields.”

Engineers Canada and the provincial and territorial engineering regulators are dedicated to enhancing gender diversity in the engineering profession. Diversity has proven value in the workplace for innovation, creativity and economic competitiveness in a global economy. – Engineers Canada

30 by 30 is looking for retention. They’re looking for women that have gone through engineering school but have not registered yet. Sandy is focused and interested in this component of 30 by 30. “I feel like this is where a lot of our women are leaving their engineering careers,” Sandy says, “Either before they get registered or they decide to go down another career path, and never get around to registering as an engineer.” 

There’s a recruitment and education component to the 30 by 30 initiative: recruiters from engineering companies are looking at ways to encourage women to apply for STEM positions as it’s not only important for businesses to show diversity, but it helps make the industry better. For education, Sandy and a few other Stantec employees have taken this initiative into their own hands through attending conferences like the annual Yukon Women in Trades & Technology (YWITT) conference this past November. “The conference was held in Whitehorse where grade 8-10 girls from different schools gathered together to learn about trades like welding, mechanics, carpentry, as well as engineering, science, and math,” Sandy says. 

Two engineers and an architect from the Stantec Yukon office set up a station at the conference where girls could come and play games dedicated to demonstrating what engineers do for work. “The girls had to set up a piping system running water from one bucket to another, figuring out which pipes and connections should be used.” Sandy says. Another game included architects and engineers collaborating together on how to design a washroom—a hands-on approach is a great motivator and introduction to how engineers work.

The 30 per cent figure is widely accepted as the threshold for self-sustaining change and the engineering profession can achieve 30 by 30 through working together towards the same goal. – Engineers Canada

The 30 by 30 initiative is also interested in promoting and hosting the events that target women at the college age. “We had a Fem in STEM event, an evening of networking for college women and local women who are starting their career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” Sandy says. Along with Sandy, there were five other mentors with close to 60 female students in attendance. “There were lots of interesting questions from people who don’t necessarily have the connections to the industry,” Sandy says, “It was nice to showcase what’s around and what it’s like working as a woman in engineering.”

So, how do we at Stantec get involved with 30 by 30? Sandy might have the answer. “I would love to see our own Stantec 30 by 30 group which would help encourage our young engineering women and trainees to stay in the field,” Sandy says, “improving our working environment enough to encourage our young engineers to register could help with retention of our already registered female engineers.”

Women make up more than half of the Canadian population but are significantly underrepresented in the engineering profession; less than 12 per cent of practicing licensed engineers are women. – Engineers Canada

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