This post was prepared by Sandra Ausma, WEAC Chair, OSPE Director and Karen Chan, OSPE President and Chair
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is Pledge for Parity. As women in engineering, we are honoured to serve on the OSPE Board of Directors, a board that is 50% women. Since the directors are elected to the board, this means that OSPE members value gender parity – members exercise their right to vote, and they consistently vote for women to have an equal voice in the engineering profession. We are proud to note that this past year was not a blip. The OSPE Board has been at or above best practice of a minimum of 30% women for the past several years.
The Women in Engineering Advocacy Committee (WEAC) has been working to ensure that women’s voices are heard in the profession. In 2015, OSPE, in partnership with ONWiE, PEO and CCWEST, was awarded funding from the Status of Women Canada to create Engineering Professional Success, a two year pilot mentorship program to support women who are recent engineering graduates and in the early stages of their career as they work towards licensure. This pilot program is up and running, and our personal hope is that it will evolve into a permanent program once the pilot is complete. We encourage you to sign up as a mentor if you are a professional engineer or as a mentee if you are a recent female engineering graduate.
In response to the Ministry of Labour’s recent consultation on closing the gender wage gap, OSPE and WEAC provided a submission addressing the ministry’s 11 questions around improving accessibility and reducing the gap. Read the full Gender Wage Gap submission.
Last February, OSPE directors were invited to a roundtable with Minister Kelly Leitch, then-Minister for the Status of Women, to discuss the challenges women face in leadership and in non-traditional careers. This sparked a lot of discussion and was the genesis for the 2015 WEAC Fall Forum event about the importance of women engineers at the boardroom table.
The WEAC Fall Forum had an illustrious panel of speakers including two 2015 winners of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. Did you know that Ontario’s “Comply or Explain” policy regarding gender diversity on boards was developed and implemented by women – Clare Beckton, P.Eng., Deputy Head for Status of Women Canada from 2007 to 2009 and Maureen Jensen, then Executive Director and now CEO, of the Ontario Securities Commission? Both women spoke at the forum and it was amazing to hear them discuss their journey from identifying the problem of the lack of women on boards, through to determining a solution, implementing it into legislation and now tracking the results. One year after “Comply and Explain” was implemented, the percentage of companies with at least one female on their board increased from 42 per cent in 2013 to 49 per cent, according to a review by Canadian Securities Administrators, as reported by CBC News.
The attendees left the Fall Forum inspired and invigorated, and this spring, the WEAC Spring Forum events will build on the theme of women on boards with multiple smaller, more intimate regional events. Please check in with the blog; event details will be posted as they become available.
OSPE and WEAC are looking forward to a great year and we continue to gain momentum as we work with other organizations to advocate for women in engineering and towards gender parity. Stay tuned and we encourage you to become involved in OSPE, your advocacy organization, and volunteer to help with WEAC initiatives.
Please contact Catrina Kronfli, Policy Analyst for more information.