Women in engineering: a student’s perspective

Why is the percentage of women in engineering in Canada still low despite an increase in the university enrolment of women? It’s a question I’ve often heard repeated during my time as a student at Carleton. When I was accepted to the National Research Council’s Women in Engineering and Science (WES) program last year, I began to wonder the same thing myself. In fact, I was surprised to hear this was a concern, and that programs such as WES were needed in a place like Canada.

Going to an all-girls high school in Asia, I saw most of my friends’ career choices being dictated by parents and the current job market. I was one of a lucky few, and was able to make the choice based on my own interests. Knowing that I’d be attending university in Canada, my parents had little influence on my decision to pursue Aerospace Engineering as my career.

From what my family had heard about North America, men and women were afforded equal opportunities in all academic and career fields. So, I was quite shocked and surprised when I arrived in Canada to find this was not necessarily the case. I found it especially strange in the case of engineering, as many women in Pakistan (my home country) are actually forced by their parents to pursue a science-based education due to better job prospects.

I don’t know if I have an answer why there are still fewer Canadian women following career paths in engineering. However, I do believe it is very important to continue to encourage women who demonstrate any interest in the field. Engineering is all about solving real-world problems – problems that affect all members of society, men and women alike. As men and women can have quite different points of view about several issues, a balance between the number of men and women in engineering will lead to more balanced and socially conscious solutions to real world problems.

Zahra Khan is a third-year Aerospace Engineering student at Carleton University.

From – http://www.now.carleton.ca/2004-03/194.htm

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