As the academic year gets underway at McMaster, the Faculty of Engineering is celebrating its incoming class, which includes 43 per cent women in Bachelor of Engineering programs. This is the closest to gender parity the Faculty has been in its 65-year history, showing a steady upward trend of 19 per cent since 2017.
This achievement is by design. Our outreach initiatives are purpose-built to ensure girls and young women connect to programming, feel a sense of belonging and can see a viable future for themselves in engineering. It’s tremendously rewarding to see these results.
McMaster Engineering’s advocacy for women in STEM goes beyond campus. Community outreach initiatives by the Faculty like Go ENG Girl, Go CODE Girl and Synergize for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are free of charge and create a supportive, collaborative, and fun environment for girls and young women to connect with each other and discover the excitement of engineering.
Free Girl Guides of Canada modules by Mac Eng experts facilitate the exploration of STEM learning to earn a badge of recognition, while its Summer Venture Camps, featuring STEM activities, welcome many girls and young women as participants and counsellors.
For many decades, across Canada, women have been significantly underrepresented in engineering programs.
Improving gender equity in engineering is critical for a multitude of reasons. Diverse perspectives result in diverse solutions to complex problems, which our society is facing no shortage of these days. We’re also seeing a need for more engineers in growing sectors like environmental and aerospace. Bringing more women into the profession will be hugely impactful now and inspire generations to come.
To ensure new and returning students feel empowered, respected and connected throughout their academic journey, Mac Eng supports a Women in Engineering (WIE) Society, which offers peer-to-peer support through the Faculty’s longest running mentorship program, significant community outreach and both social and professional development workshops.
A Women in Engineering Committee, comprised of women faculty members, meet to discuss issues of importance, such as gender parity and how to support young women-identifying engineers. And Kim Jones, Associate Chair of Undergraduate Chemical Engineering at McMaster, brings her leadership to the position of chair for the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering.
Shayna Earle, co-president of McMaster WIE, describes the 43 per cent milestone as a massive step in easing the barriers many women feel when choosing engineering. Growing up in a small town in New Brunswick, Earle hadn’t been exposed to engineering as a career option and didn’t have the opportunity to meet women engineers, making the prospect of pursuing it in university quite intimidating.
Looking to shift this narrative as a proud woman studying engineering, through her co-presidential role of WIE, Earle takes on opportunities to work in equity, diversity and inclusion and helps advocate for women and other equity-deserving groups in engineering. Her work was recognized in 2022 when she was named recipient of a Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation undergraduate ambassador award and YMCA Hamilton Young Trailblazer Award. “The difference I’ve seen even since entering engineering at Mac in 2018 is amazing, and it makes me proud to be even a small part of the change,” says Earle.
In addition to its outreach programs targeted to girls and young women, the Faculty is making strides in engaging meaningfully with other equity-deserving groups through barrier-free opportunities. Its Black Outreach STEM Series (BOSS) initiative has enrolled more than 400 students since launching in April.
“We’re deeply committed to this work and motivated by the successes we’ve seen so far,” says Sheardown.