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Overcoming obstacles as women in engineeringFebruary 10, 2020

Five students and industry professionals share what makes them proud to be in engineering, and how they overcame challenges in the field

More than 250 McMaster Engineering students gathered at the Women in Engineering Industry Night last Tuesday to connect with representatives from 22 companies who offered career advice and guidance.

"These are employers who really value diversity and inclusion. We're so thrilled that they came and gave up their time tonight for the students," said Kim Jones, associate professor in chemical engineering, to kick off the night. "Take advantage of the opportunity to get their feedback and get to know them – they can become your mentors."

Today, on the International Day for Girls and Women in Science, we hear from five women who attended the event about their experiences in engineering. 

Richa Shah, third-year Mac engineering student and Innovation Catalyst, NPX Innovation

"I'm proud to be a woman in engineering because I love the way this industry works. We can bring so much change into this industry, and just putting our step into that door is starting somewhere. 

The biggest obstacle I faced was not knowing where I belonged in this industry. I overcame that by pursuing what I wanted to do, work really hard and put in all of the effort that an engineer should and I will continue to do so because I want to inspire the people that come behind me."  

Anna Green, third-year mechanical and biomedical engineering student 

"I'm just proud to be in engineering. It has nothing really to do with me being a girl and that's the way it should be because girls should have an equal place in engineering.

The biggest obstacle I faced as an engineer was thinking that I wasn't good enough to be here wasn't smart enough. And I overcame that by recognizing that there are tons of types of engineers out there and you don't have to fit the stereotype of the genius one you can be whatever you want to be." 

Kim Jones, associate professor of chemical engineering and chair of the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering (ONWiE)

"I'm proud to be a woman in engineering because I can do all of the things that a man can do. And it gives me the opportunity to really change the world. 

The biggest obstacle I faced as an engineer was loneliness. When you are one of very few women in an environment, it's hard to feel a sense of belonging. And I overcame it by recognizing that there are lots of people who can be your friends and you don't have to only network and get to know people who are like you. There are many people who can be supportive and kind and lovely colleagues. And I'm really pleased to say that I'm thrilled with the colleagues I have now."

Joanne Lee, first-year engineering student

"I'm proud to be a woman in engineering because I feel that after I've come into engineering, I've gained confidence as well as an improvement in my intelligence. 

The biggest obstacle I face is dealing with the workload. I feel like it's a lot different from where I come from as this is like my first year dealing with such new material. I overcame it with the help of my peers, as well as those around me who are there to help mentor me and guide me on my way."

Shannon McNeil, Innovation Catalyst, NPX Innovation

"I'm proud to be a woman in engineering because it sets up younger generations to view women in engineering as positive role models and encourages them to also get into the field. 

The biggest obstacle I faced as an engineer was making sure that I was taking safety and green initiatives into consideration in my engineering designs. I overcame this by making sure that I was involved with a company that really takes these values into consideration and is always focused around making sure that the environment is also being considered."

Check out McMaster Engineering's Women in Engineering page for upcoming events, mentorship opportunities and more.