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Where are the women? B.C. task force looks at gender imbalance in engineering

A special committee of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) has issued a report on how the association might work to address the gender imbalance in the sector.


A special committee of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) has issued a report on how the association might work to address the gender imbalance in the sector.

Issued on June 14, the “Women in Engineering and Geoscience Task Force” report notes that “in comparison to other professions, engineering and geoscience recruit substantially fewer women, and … more women leave these two professions than others that require a similar level of education.”

One of the suggestions was that engineering bodies such as Engineers Canada, Geoscientists Canada and ACEC should coordinate their efforts and lobby the federal government to change the employment insurance provisions so that benefits are not clawed back when individuals do part-time work while on parental leave.

The task force’s full range of recommendations are to provide a framework for APEGBC to proceed on the issue.

Below is the Task Force Report summary of recommendations, which are set out under outreach/recruitment and retention.  To read the complete report, click here.

In the area of Outreach/Recruitment, the Task Force recommends:

Create or revise marketing materials/ branding of professions to better recognize what is important to women when choosing a career (e.g. Engineering and Geoscience helps people and communities).

Increase the number of women who do outreach visits in schools.

Provide training to all engineers / geoscientists who visit schools to deliver activities and messages that empower girls to embrace science, technology, engineering and the tools used in these areas.

Train teachers to be more aware of careers in engineering and geoscience and how to communicate the careers in a way that is attractive to girls.

Support universities in recruitment efforts.

In the area of Retention, the Task Force recommends:

Encourage Engineers Canada, Geoscientists Canada, and ACEC to coordinate efforts and lobby the federal government to improve employment insurance provisions so benefits are not clawed back due to part time work while on parental leave.

Assess APEGBC policies to ensure they do not create unnecessary barriers to retaining women in the professions (e.g. Return to practice policy).

Support employers in building a gender diverse workforce by providing access to existing guidelines and workshops (e.g. post on APEGBC website, promote at APEGBC events, host events as appropriate). In the longer term, create APEGBC gender diversity training programs and certify organizations that undergo training and adopt practices that support gender diversity.

Enhance mentoring programs by increasing the number of female mentors and providing non-traditional mentoring structures (e.g. virtual mentoring, speed mentoring, social networking, etc.).

Develop professional standards of practice/ guidelines for APEGBC members similar to those of APEGA and PEO.

Create a gender diversity award to recognize companies that promote and support gender diversity in their organization.

Recommendations that support both Recruitment and Retention are:

Support and promote leadership and diversity workshops such as those developed by WINSETT, and WWEST.

Recommend to the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) the adoption of a competency based approach for engineering undergraduate programs.

Continue the APEGBC compensation survey, report the results based on gender, and assess how results can be utilized more strategically.

Utilize volunteers to seek sponsorships to financially support gender diversity activities.

Measure and report success by developing key performance indicators (e.g., number of women entering/ staying in the professions, compensation equity, career advancement, etc.) and reporting on outcomes in the APEGBC annual report.

The task force members and contributors were as follows:

Donna Howes, P.Eng., Councillor, APEGBC (Chair)

Anja Lanz, EIT, Chair, Division for the Advancement of Women in Engineering and Geoscience, APEGBC

Catherine Roome, P.Eng., President and CEO, BC Safety Authority

Diana Theman, Director, Organizational Effectiveness, BC Hydro

Elizabeth Croft, P.Eng. PhD, Professor, UBC and NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (BC/Yukon)

Francois Morton, Senior Vice-President BC, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, Genivar

Lianna Mah, P.Eng., Vice-President, Business Development, Associated Engineering

Lisa Blackham, Chair, Women in Mining Sub-Committee

Marg Latham, P.Eng., President, Aqua Libra Consulting

Shiloh Carlson, P.Eng., Councillor, APEGBC

Steve Frith, President, Urban Systems

Tom Tiedje, P.Eng., PhD, Dean of Engineering, UVIC

Courtnay Hughes, Research Analyst, Mining Industry Human Resource Council

Cameron Gatey, P.Eng., Urban Systems, Vice-President, ACEC-BC