Right Turn: #ILookLikeAnEngineer

Author: Stacey Johnson, 08/07/15

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First female scientists were #DistractinglySexy – and hilarious, I might add. (If this means nothing to you, I recommend you read this article for a good recap.)

Now their female engineering friends and colleagues are also tackling sexism in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – with their own Twitter hashtag: #ILookLikeAnEngineer. For the story behind this movement, click here.

I’ve already blogged once about the important issue of women having fulfilling careers in science and the challenges they still face. I know that progress is slow, but nothing would make me happier than to never have to revisit the subject again. However, I think that’s highly unlikely. (The title of my blog was “Women in science: a fairy tale?”)

Women in the workforce struggle with sexism and equality, no matter what their profession may be. The difference in STEM is that many girls are blatantly discouraged from pursuing studies and careers in these fields. As a high school student, I was never told I couldn’t get a degree in English and Drama because those subjects “were for boys.” (Only my parents discouraged me, but that was for employability. I’ve done fine, Mom and Dad.)

So how do the numbers stack up today? According to a report from Engineers Canada looking at Trends in Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded 2009-2013, the number of women in engineering undergraduate programs “peaked in 1999 at 20.6% and declined thereafter to 17.1% in 2008. Since then, female representation has increased each year accounting for 18.9% of total enrolments in 2013. The proportion of women in post-graduate enrolment is slightly higher, reaching 23.4% in 2013.” This 2015 article from the University of Toronto provides some comfort and hope.

At the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine, we currently have seven male engineers on staff (one is an intern). That is slightly less than our nine female engineers (two are interns), most of whom came together to star in their own #ILookLikeAnEngineer photo.

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L-R Fernanda Masri PhD, Emily Titus PhD, May MacIntosh, Camila Londono PhD in progress, Joanna Fromstein PEng, Lesley Chan PhD, and Hayley Christian.

 

Do you think sexism is a problem in engineering? What about STEM? Do you think campaigns like this one are needed? I welcome your comments and recommend a couple of good resources:

Ontario Network of Women in Engineering

Status of Women Canada

“Stemming the Tide” – Women Engineers Report

Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at)ccrm.ca. We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

 

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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

For almost 20 years, Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.
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