Women in Engineering
Female enrolment in undergraduate engineering programs reached a peak of 20.6 percent of total enrolment in 2001 and has fluctuated between 17 and 18 percent for the greater part of the decade.
In 2010, 17.7 percent of students enrolled in Canadian undergraduate engineering programs were women, up slightly from 2009. Engineers Canada publishes these and other statistics annually in Canadian Engineers for Tomorrow: Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded Report.
Women tend to be well-represented in certain fields of engineering such as environmental or chemical engineering, however, many engineering disciplines continue to suffer from a significant gender imbalance. Due partly to the low numbers of women who entered the engineering profession in Canada prior to the early 1980s, in 2010 women accounted for 10.5 percent of the country's total population of registered professional engineers. This number represents a very modest increase from recent years, but substantial increases are still needed for the engineering profession to more closely reflect the composition of society and benefit from full engagement of Canada’s human resources.
Engineers Canada has looked in detail at the issue surrounding the proportion of female representation in the engineering profession. The organization has a Policy on Women in Engineering and supports a national information-sharing network called the Women in Engineering Advisory Group, which includes representation from Engineers Canada’s members, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council Canada Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering, the National Council of Deans of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students.
In May 2009, the Engineering and Technology Labour Market Study final report was published. The Engineering and Technology Labour Market Study was a joint undertaking of Engineers Canada and the Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists, and was supported financially by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. The project produced a total of ten studies, including two on diversity challenges in the engineering and technology professions: Young Women- Factors Shaping Attitudes Toward Mathematics, Science, Engineering and Technology Careers, and Achieving Diversity: Strategies That Work.
In June 2009, Engineers Canada sent a single qualitative question to professional engineers across Canada : “What is the vision of success you would like to see for women engineers in Canada?”
The intent was to capture people’s perceptions about their workplace situations to better understand the prevailing cultural conditions in the workplace that influence career decisions. Engineers Canada carried out this survey to better understand the factors responsible for the persistent low representation of women among the ranks of professional engineers, a phenomenon also seen in the United States and other western economies. For the full report, please see “Paying Heed to the Canaries in the Coal Mine”.
In September 2009, Engineers Canada held a workshop to identify initiatives to attract greater numbers of women to, and promote their retention in, the engineering profession. Such initiatives include raising the profile and improving the image of the profession, demonstrating the value of diversity in engineering education and in the workplace, and helping prepare engineers for a diverse workforce. Please see "The Future is Now. Engineers Take the Lead!" report for more information.
In 2011, Engineers Canada also created the Women in Engineering Committee which includes representation from Engineers Canada’s members, the National Council of Deans of Engineering and Applied Science; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering; the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies Canada; the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology; and the Executive Committee of the Women in Engineering Advisory Group. The committee’s mission is to provide advice and recommendations to the Engineers Canada Board on matters relating to the participation of women in the engineering field, with the goal of attracting and retaining more women in the profession, and achieving equity and diversity in the profession. The committee also oversees the implementation of Engineers Canada’s approved Women in Engineering polices and strategies, and supports the development of tools and activities that improve public image, visibility, and understanding of engineering; encourage more female students to pursue an engineering education; and enable more female engineers to remain in the profession throughout their careers. Engineers Canada’s Strategies and Goals for Women in Engineering Activities outlines the seven areas of strategic focus for the work of the Women in Engineering Committee.
Engineers Canada presents the Award for the Support of Women in the Engineering Profession, as part of the Engineers Canada Awards Program. In addition, Engineers Canada supports the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation, which offers awards and incentives to outstanding women in an undergraduate or a graduate engineering program, and recognizes community role models.