International Women’s Day 2020 is #BecauseOfYou

Today is International Women’s Day, a time when we celebrate the women in our lives by coming together to work towards a common goal—gender equality in our workplaces, communities and society. For #IWD2020, Women and Gender Equality Canada wants to shine a light on grassroots efforts to advance gender equality in communities across the country by honouring Canadians who are finding powerful ways to drive positive change. By using #BecauseOfYou you can pay tribute to the diverse and inspirational gender equality change-makers we know in our own lives.

As an organization, OSPE is deeply committed to achieving gender-equity in the engineering profession. Today, women comprise only 14% of engineers in Ontario and 38% of women with engineering degrees are underemployed in the province. The findings of our Breaking Barriers for Women in STEM report suggest that women feel disrespected, undervalued, lack mentors and sponsors, and continue to be paid less than their male counterparts. These barriers are amplified for women from equity seeking groups like those from racialized, Indigenous, and/or LGBTQ2+ communities, amongst others.

Women have contributed significantly to the engineering profession. In a time where innovation, creativity and adaptability are more important than ever, government, industry and academia must work together to ensure that we are leveraging and igniting women’s potential to lead us into the future. To do this, it is imperative to strengthening women’s economic position by encouraging cultural change within organizations. This cultural change is required to defeat the discrimination that women face in male dominated professions such as engineering; discrimination that is preventing us from innovating towards the kinds of solutions we need for a healthy society.

It is imperative for governments to creative incentives that drive accountability to ensure that diversity and inclusion becomes a priority in the engineering and STEM sector more broadly. For our part, OSPE’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Committee works to provide leadership on matters related to diversity, inclusion, equity, and the elimination of discrimination in Ontario’s engineering profession. The contributions from our dedicates volunteers and extensive network of like-minded organizations make change possible.

We asked some of our members what inspires them to move the dial on gender-equity, and what they would say to a young woman looking to pursue engineering today. Here’s what they had to say:

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Rejeanne Aimey, P.Eng., Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, Ontario Society of Professional Engineers

The perspectives and values of all people determines the quality of the fabric of our society. What we weave together as humans makes the whole stronger as the fabric developed considering all of our input increases usability, efficiency, productivity, sustainability, and profitability. All of our contributions are vital, but specifically because of our traditional roles, womxn are in a unique position to better understand the needs of society and how to fulfill them on time given the resources available. This must not be discounted and it must be balanced by the insights and input of our male counterparts who traditionally provide. It is also why we require any womxn or girl to pursue her areas of interest unencumbered by discouraging narratives of ability, particularly in traditionally male-dominated fields such as engineering. We need you to blaze the trail for others for our collective survival – this is why it is important to be seen helping others realize their dreams along the way.

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Elizabeth Pietrantonio, P.Eng., Member of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force

Engineering is a challenging and exciting career choice. It provides you with amazing opportunities to change the world! But you need confidence, courage and support to take on a career in which you might be the only woman in a meeting, or on a team. It gets easier and you have women in front of you who have been building bridges for you. Organizations such as OSPE and Engineers Canada are working hard to change the landscape of engineering so that, at a time in the near future, you will not be the only woman in the room. OSPE is there to support you – take the risk now! Here is what I told my daughter when she entered the field: Engineering is a team sport – no one ever built a rocket ship alone. You cannot be an expert without being a beginner first. And diversity makes a team stronger – we need you!

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Vanessa Raponi, EIT, Member of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force

We need more women of diverse backgrounds in engineering. As a queer woman of colour, I know my world experience gives me a unique point of view, and my team’s problem-solving result in more robust solutions. There’s a place for you in Engineering!

While women are on the frontlines of this battle, the burden is not theirs alone. In order to tap their potential as leaders and workers, we must work together to recognize and combat the bias that erodes our professional spaces. Join OSPE for #IWD2020 to think about the unrecognized contributions women make in the workplace and consider the ways that you can lead change.

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