The question of the under-representation of women in engineering has been widely documented (Ghiasi, Larivière, Sugimoto, 2015; Pardo, Calvet, Pons, Martinez, 2016) and attempts at solutions have been proposed and put in place. However, these solutions do not seem to lead to satisfactory results, as women are still outnumbered in engineering (Leaper, 2015; Sugimoto, Ni, West, Larivière, 2014). Today, university engineering programs are struggling to exceed women’s participation rate of 20% (Engineers Canada, 2015; Status of Women Canada, 2012).
However, one approach seems to be unexplored to date: the engineering of women for women that enables them to study and explore careers that deal with issues that are concerning to women. To do this, a change in engineering culture is required and we must ask ourselves some fundamental questions, such as:
- What is engineering?
- How do women engineers, research professors and professionals in the field contribute to the advancement of scientific research and technological innovations in engineering for the well-being of women?
- What obstacles do they face?
It is this questioning that led us to conduct an exploratory study of male/female engineering researchers/professors in engineering and future engineers to:
- Explore how these women and men perceive engineering;
- Understand the importance they attach to the contribution of women to engineering and the role of female engineers as agents of change in the advancement of scientific and technological research on women’s issues of interest;
- Understand the obstacles that impede women engineers from investing in typically feminine issues and their motivations for these issues;
- Propose concrete suggestions that could incite and encourage female engineers to investigate and innovate on issues that are typically of interest to women.
This study will highlight the role and contribution of female engineers in research and technological innovation, and on women’s issues.
Long term, this study will lead to new policies and practices for recruiting, retaining and accommodating women in engineering, as well as adapting science and math curricula at the primary, secondary and post-secondary levels in Canada. Worldwide, this will lead to a better quality of life for everyone, a greater participation of women in engineering who will be able to work on topics of interest, concern and passion, and lastly to the diversification and intensification of services.
Engineers Canada (2015). Canadian Engineers for Tomorrow: Trends in Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded 2010-2014. Retrieved on October 1st 2016 from: https://www.engineerscanada.ca/sites/default/files/EnrolmentReport2014-e-r2.pdf
Ghiasi, G., Larivière, V., Sugimoto, C. R. (2015). On compliance of engineers with a gendered scientific system. PloS One, 10(12), 1-16.
Leaper, C. (2015). Do I belong? Gender, peer groups, and STEM achievement. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 7(2), 1-14.
Pardo, P., Calvet, M. D., Pons, O., Martinez, M. C. (2016). Pioneer women in engineering studies: What can we learn from their experiences? European Journal of Engineering Education, 41(6), 1- 18.
Status of Women Canada (2012). Women in Canada at a Glance: Statistical Highlights 2012. Retrieved on October 1st 2016 from: http://swc-cfc.gc.ca/rc-cr/stat/wic-fac-2012/index-en.html
Sugimoto, C. R., Ni, C., West, J. D. & Larivière, V. (2014). Innovative women: An analysis of global gender patenting. Science Technology and Innovation, Leiden, 611.