'Tipping point': campaign wants 30% of engineers to be female by 2030

All the engineers in Manitoba — only 15 per cent of them are women. Gender inequality is the biggest diversity gap facing engineering in the province. It's a problem that the association, Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba, is hoping to tackle.

If we want more women, we need to show them engineering is a place where they fit, Elise Neufeld says

The 30 by 30 initiative is working to increase the representation of women in engineering by 30 per cent by the year 2030. (Submitted by Maria Neufeld)

Only 10 per cent of engineers in Manitoba are women, making gender inequality the biggest diversity gap facing the profession in the province.

It's a problem Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba is hoping to tackle.

The professional association is joining a national initiative of Engineers Canada, which is working to increase the representation of women in engineering through its 30 by 30 initiative.

The goal is to raise the number of newly licensed women in engineering to 30 per cent by the year 2030.

"Thirty per cent is universally held as the tipping point for sustainable change — reaching 30 by 30 will help drive the shift in the overall membership of the engineering profession as more and more women continue to enter the profession," the Engineering Canada website says.

The initiative is the first of its kind in Manitoba.

"I believe that with a more diverse group of people, you end up with better decision-making, and so when I heard about this, I thought this was a great initiative and I want to do my part," said Maria Neufeld, an engineer and transmission and compliance manager with Manitoba Hydro. 

Engineering Geoscientists Manitoba has partnered on the project with the provincial government and some of the largest engineering firms in the province, including Manitoba Hydro.

The 30 by 30 initiative officially launches in the province on Tuesday at the Manitoba Legislature at an event that will highlight the gender inequality in the engineering field and look at how to encourage more female students into the profession. A panel led by women in the field will discuss what is steering women away from careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). 

'I would love to make it more accessible for women and figure out how to raise the profile that this is a great profession for women to enter,' Elise Neufeld says about engineering. (Submitted by Elise Neufeld)

"There certainly was more of a perception that it was a male-dominated field," said Elise Neufeld, a hydrotechnical engineer with Hatch, another firm teaming up with Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba. She's not related to Maria Neufeld.

"I've had a really positive experience in engineering and as a woman. I felt very supported both in school and in the profession, and I understand that's not everyone's story, so I would love to make it more accessible for women and figure out how to raise the profile that this is a great profession for women to enter," she said. 

While both Elise and Maria had positive experiences, they both know that's not true for all women. 

Maria has experienced subtle barriers throughout her career, mostly stereotyping that all engineers are men and having to specifically remind men that she's a woman in the industry, she said. 

But that's not the only thing that might be holding women back from joining STEM, said Maria. She believes people just might not know about engineering as a viable career; even she often has a hard time explaining to people what exactly she does. 

"In the long term, if we want more women, more women have to enter the profession, and that means girls need to see engineering as a place where they fit," said Elise.

"Once you have more women it just becomes more normalized."

Corrections

  • We initially reported that 15 per cent of engineers in Manitoba are women. In fact, 10 per cent of engineers in Manitoba are women. Also, Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba hopes to raise the number of newly licensed female engineers to 30 per cent by 2030, not the total number of female engineers.
    Nov 13, 2018 7:54 AM CT