Soundbites from three recent conferences on equity, diversity and inclusion

Research shows that achieving diversity and gender parity across sectors generates significant economic value, promotes innovation, improves decision-making and project results, and decreases unconscious bias. In an era of digital disruption where the pace of technological advancement is rapid, academic and corporate cultures that are not inclusive or representative will negatively impact every business and institution.

With our energized and engaged members leading the way, OSPE was thrilled to participate in a number of thought-leadership events and conferences over the past several months to garner knowledge about current trends and tactics for achieving equity, diversity and inclusion in engineering and in society as a whole.

We caught up with OSPE members who attended several recent conferences to hear their feedback and key takeaways
  • The 9th Global Engineering Deans Council Conference

In October, over 200 academics, experts, corporate leaders and engineering deans from six continents congregated in Niagara Falls for the 9th Global Engineering Deans Council (GEDC) conference, marking the first time that the conference has been hosted in Canada. OSPE is proud to have been one of the conference sponsors and to have had several OSPE representatives attend important sessions on the ways engineers and engineering schools can innovate to address grand global challenges.

Dean Puri—-
“In these troubled times, it’s very important for the world to come together. Canada believes in diversity, multiculturalism and tolerance. The values of Canada are the values of McMaster Engineering. That’s why we were delighted to have hosted the Global Engineering Deans Council conference, which included the GEDC Airbus Diversity Award.” – Ishwar K. Puri, Dean of Engineering, McMaster University

Social Inequalities


  • The Canadian Federation of Engineering Students’ (CFES) Conference on Diversity in Engineering

Let's Break Barriers Conference on Diversity in Engineering
Left to right: Let’s Break Barriers project leaders Valerie Davidson, P.Eng., and Annette Bergeron, P.Eng.

In November, OSPE representatives attended the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students’ (CFES) Conference on Diversity in Engineering (CDE 2017), held at McMaster University. Thank you to Réjeanne Aimey, P.Eng., and the Let’s Break Barriers team, including Valerie Davidson, P.Eng., Annette Bergeron, P.Eng., and Kathy Lerette, CET, for delivering presentations at the Conference, themed “Breaking the Status Quo.” CDE 2017 fostered an idea-sharing, collaborative environment to help student leaders develop their knowledge on innovative ways to harness diverse cultures, perspectives, experiences and educational backgrounds to strengthen the engineering community.Strategies

“Inclusion and equity in engineering are important for so many reasons. Every person deserves the opportunity to explore the exciting possibilities that a career in STEM can offer them. A profession with diverse voices, experiences and identities is better equipped to solve the wide range of challenges in our world. It was inspiring to hear how students from across Canada are working towards making more inclusive, diverse spaces; and it was exciting to see these students sharing ideas, best practices and resources. These conversations are already turning into action at the engineering student level.” – Hannah McPhee, CDE 2017 Conference host

Réjeanne Aimey Conference on Diversity in Engineering
Réjeanne Aimey, P.Eng., Chair of OSPE’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee

“It was refreshing to see engineering students at these conferences so excited about developing a good understanding of people and their needs to design effective solutions for everyone. I found the students were really interested in understanding how to overcome barriers and to navigate the landscape of diversity and inclusion once they leave school. They were also curious about learning how to translate engineering – which to them right now means numbers, science and differential equations – into actions that can address societal problems, like homelessness or clean drinking water.

RetentionAs when solving mathematical-based formulations, after examining a series of different problems with different approaches, engineers have a framework in their minds – whether they recognize it or not – that enables them to replace unknowns with tangible tactics and ideas in the real world. Engineers can approach problems in a confident way. It’s how engineers put things together that is their very strength. Engineering students are clearly enthusiastic about making a difference and we as a profession need to give them the guidance on how they can get engaged.” Réjeanne Aimey, P.Eng., Chair of OSPE’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee

  • Gender Summit North America 2017

MenThe Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) hosted Gender Summit North America 2017 in Montreal in November, bringing the Summit to Canada for the first time. The Summit brought together close to 600 advocates of gender equity policy from science, innovation and development fields to discuss the benefits of diversity in an international context, pluralism and fruitful ways to make gender equality in research and innovation the norm.

Vanessa Raponi“Equity, diversity and inclusion are important in engineering because we’ve been too far behind for far too long. As a profession committed to innovation and change with respect to technology, we need to apply the same fundamental concepts to social sustainability and to keeping up with the way the world works. Lack of inclusion is increasingly becoming an economic detriment to companies who are not being proactive.

One of my favourite quotes from the Summit was from Elizabeth Croft, who spoke about why we cannot give up on the push for diversity and inclusion: ‘There’s too much inertia – we need to keep adding energy into the system in order to overcome the drag.’” – Vanessa Raponi, Founder & President ‎EngiQueers Canada

The bottom line is “diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice.” Diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means recognizing that each individual is unique and has something to bring to the table.

OSPE is here to be the voice and support system that can help ensure everyone has the opportunity to change the world through engineering. Check in regularly with OSPE’s website, blog and social media channels to find out how you can participate in upcoming conferences and actively help your advocacy body drive the change we all want to see.

OSPE recently launched its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee to complement and deepen the Society’s current efforts to support a diverse and progressive engineering profession. If you want to contribute your voice to this important conversation, simply email by December 31, 2017 for more information on how you can apply to volunteer on OSPE’s EDI Committee.

Sincere thanks to all OSPE members who participated in these recent conferences. To read more on the topic of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, check out the December issue of The Voice magazine.

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