THUNDER BAY – It's International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is balance, with particular attention to building a gender-balanced world.
Confederation College is committed to engaging with young women and encouraging them to follow a career in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, but there is a great deal of work to be done before the field can achieve gender balance.
A look at the statistics outlining the proportion of women in STEM fields is alarming.
Women make up half of the overall workforce, but in STEM careers, women are underrepresented to a large degree, making up only 29 per cent of the science and engineering workforce. Looking at one field in particular, a 2016 study showed that only 17.5 per cent of civil engineers are women.
Raquel Glavish is the program coordinator of Confederation College’s Civil Engineering Technology program and she wants to change that.
“Civil Engineering has traditionally been known as a male-dominated field,” Glavish said. “This could be because it encompasses both design and construction. Since construction is classified as a labor-intensive job, it is male dominated, but the profession is changing. We want to make sure that every girl who is interested in this field grows up knowing that she can do it. Everybody can do it.”
The challenge is that from a young age, girls are made to feel like they are not inherently suited for math. According to the Education Quality and Accountability Office standardized test in the 2016-17 academic year, only 49 per cent of Grade 3 girls in Ontario agreed that they were good at math compared to 62 per cent of boys.
“When I was in Grade 9 I never would have thought that I would be where I am right now even though I’ve always been good at math,” said Brooklyn Patey, second-year Civil Engineering Technology student.
Though she grew up interested in STEM fields, she felt like there wasn’t a place for her and she first applied to Child and Youth Services program and she quickly realized that was not the field for her. Now she is in the Civil Engineering Technology program and couldn’t be happier.
“I want young girls to know that it’s okay to take shop classes and take math classes and work with your dad in the shop. When I was a kid I didn’t have that encouragement so I hope that I can give that to somebody else.”
Raquel Glavish believes that bringing more women into the field benefits everyone.
“I’m seeing more women enter the industry and that excites me because we bring a new dynamic that enhances the workplace. Women bring great value to a project and the workplace as a whole” Glavish said. “Women are succeeding in this industry and it’s wonderful to see.”
For more information on the Civil Engineering Technology program, visit: www.confederationcollege.ca/civil-eng