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Students get an edge at Women in Engineering Industry NightFebruary 8, 2019

Female engineering students and alumni had the opportunity to network and share experiences at the Women in Engineering Industry Night.

For some female Mac Eng students, the question, "What are you going to do once you've finished your degree?" became a little clearer after the Women in Engineering Industry Night. On Monday, February 4, more than a dozen companies, female alumni and students gathered to celebrate women in the industry and engage in conversations about career opportunities and how to stand out when applying to jobs.

Cheryl Quenneville, assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering, kicked off the night with a few words on the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering (ONWiE) and their goal of improving gender diversity in the industry. Alumni Maria Topalovic followed by speaking to students about her journey as a Mac Eng student, career path, experience in the industry and the advice she would give her younger self (spoiler: be open to opportunities, embrace the challenge and be an inspiration to your past self). Here's what else Maria and other prominent alumni had to say:

Maria Topalovic.

Maria Topalovic, B.Eng Chemical Engineering & Mgt '08, Master's of Engineering and Public Policy '10, Environment Manager at CRH Canada

Why is it important to celebrate women in engineering?

It's so important to celebrate and recognize women in engineering because there should be more of us. It's great to see all the women out here tonight for an event to continue their pursuit of engineering. I think it's so important that we continue to highlight STEM activities for young women, as well, and to show them that there's all kinds of opportunities for us in sort of the science and technology field.

What advice would you give a female Mac Eng student?

Never give up. Engineering's challenging, school's challenging, finding a job is very, very challenging, too. The engineering degree you're getting at McMaster gives you a great technical background, a great foundation to apply in any field, in any career, and never give up on the opportunity to do something great. Find something meaningful, whether it's in work, in volunteering, in extracurricular activities, within your city, get involved in your community and just keep going. If we all take that advice in everything that we do, regardless if we're women in engineering or not, I think we'll all do better for the communities that we live in. 

How do you want to see the industry change in 10 years?

Having more women engineers in the industry over the next 10 years would be great. I know that's a goal that the associations have, but I think just in terms of continuing on the pursuit of sustainability, ensuring that as an engineer, it doesn't matter what discipline any of us are in, it's important to take into account sustainability in everything that we do.


Rafael Zalewski, B.Eng Mechatronics Engineering and International Studies '14, Quality Engineer at Tesla

As an ally, what is your biggest role working in a male-dominated field?

As an ally working in a male-dominated field, I would say that the most important thing is to recognize that equality might not always exist, that it's not a perfect world, and if I see any male coworkers acting in a way they shouldn't, I should be speaking up to encourage a more positive workplace.

Why is it important to celebrate women in engineering?

I think it's important to celebrate women in engineering to promote equality in the workplace. There are far too few women engineers. Events like this will definitely help bring more female engineers to the workplace. 

What's the best piece of advice you would give a female employee working in a male-dominated field?

Don't be afraid to stand out, and don't be afraid to raise your voice.

 Women in Engineering Industry Night.

Julie Pan, B.Eng Electrical Engineering '02, Hybrid Controls Design Engineer at General Motors

Why is it important to celebrate women in engineering?

It's important to celebrate women in engineering because women bring a diverse set of thinking and skills back into the world and into the industry.

When you were a Mac Eng student, what advice do you wish you could have gotten then? What advice would you give a current Mac Eng student?

The advice that I wish I could have given myself, now knowing what I know now, is to have an open mind and accept all the opportunities that come at you. When I graduated, I focused on telecommunications, and right now I have been working at General Motors for over 10 years. During all of my schooling, automotive was not something that I really considered, but it's super rewarding.

How do you want to see the industry change in 10 years?

I hope the industry will be more inclusive of all people and skillsets, include more women, because I really do think over the last number of years, women have seen a significant increase at the General Motors that I worked at. In my personal group, we have increased women's presence by three-to-four-fold, so I'm hoping to see that trend to continue.