École Polytechnique: Students continue to experience sexism

An engineering student at École Polytechnique says things are slowly getting better for women in the field, but there’s still room for improvement.

A quarter century after the shooting, Quebec students are still battling sexism

Jennifer Sernuck, a chemical engineering student at Polytechnique, says sexism is less prevalent than it was 25 years ago

An engineering student at École Polytechnique says things are slowly getting better for women in the field, but there’s still room for improvement.

“I never felt I was being judged or mistreated in society right now because I'm a woman or because I aspire to be an engineer,” said Jennifer Sernuck, a chemical engineering student at Polytechnique

Sernuck, who won a woman's scholarship, said there are many women in her program.

However, she has heard second-hand that one teacher in the program made sexist remarks about women studying engineering.

“He didn’t think, still today, that girls belonged in engineering,” Sernuck said.

There was no formal complaint made about the alleged comments and the teacher is now retired.

The school says, had it been reported, it would’ve been taken very seriously.

“We do not tolerate bad behaviour in our institution so we would take action we would investigate first,” said Claudette Fortier, Director of Student Services at Polytechnique.

“Someone would meet the student and would meet also the professor if there's a particular allegation against the professor.”

École Polytechnique says it has created a scholarship to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the shooting, and the school has increased its efforts to have more female students enrolled.

Enrolment rates not the only issue

Increasing enrolment rates are not the only challenge, according to Katherine Soad Bellini.

Katherine Soad Bellini is an engineering student fighting obscene chants at Concordia University (Shari Okeke/CBC)

She’s a Concordia University student fighting against sexist and degrading university chants.

Last year, she introduced a motion to Concordia’s student council to clean up those chants. It passed unanimously.

“I had to act because if I didn’t, no one would,” she said.

Sexual assault still prevalent

The Sexual Assault Resource Centre at Concordia University has seen an increase in the number of people coming forward with reports of assaults and sexual violence.

Jennifer Drummond, coordinator at the centre, says sexual assault has become so normalized, some victims don't realize at first that their experience amounts to assault.

She says there’s a need for more education from an early age about consent.

“It needs to be an enthusiastic yes that you want to hear from your partner,” she said.



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