Women have historically been under-represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields in both post-secondary education and the professional workforce.
- Gender differences in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science (STEM) programs at university
But evidence shows that evening out the gender balance produces great rewards. In groups with a higher proportion of women, collective intelligence rises. All members of that group learn how to thrive in a diverse workplace. Female engineers bring greater gender parity to the field, but also a greater diversity of design methods and innovations.
UBC Applied Science Faculty and student leaders have articulated a strategic commitment to a parity of opportunity within both the school and in the profession itself.
Faculty Professor and Dean
Dean Marc Parlange, professor of civil engineering, is committed to educating and empowering graduates and leaders who effect a positive change on society.
Associate Dean, Education & Professional Development
Associate Dean of Education and Professional Development Elizabeth Croft is a Professor Mechanical Engineering. She was Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Chair (BC/Yukon) for Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE) from 2010 to 2015.
Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering
Goldcorp Professor in Women in Engineering Sheryl Staub-French is a civil engineer interested in sustainable building construction, and a passionate advocate of mentoring and outreach in the field. Staub-French is the major force behind engaging future engineering students through the university's eng•cite initiatives.
Of the last four student presidents of the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), three have been women. EUS presidents have a vital role as student liaisons to the Dean and as shapers of UBC Engineering's policy concerning female students.
Jeanie is the current Engineering Undergraduate Society President.
President of the EUS and Chair of the AMS Executive Oversight Committee, Veronica is also an elected student member of UBC's Board of Governors and served as Chair of the National Conference of Women in Engineering in 2013
BASc '15, Mechanical Engineering
MECH alumna Andrea Palmer joins innovation hub, makes headlines
Female enrolment in UBC Engineering has risen 61 percent since 2010. The percentage of women in UBC Engineering's incoming class rose from approximately 19 percent in 2008 to 23 percent in 2011 to 29 percent in 2014.
As the number of female engineering students at UBC has risen, so have the average entrance marks and the quality of students. The School's goal is to ensure that those women who are admitted choose UBC as their destination university.
Faculty and staff have conducted the research behind gender diversity in STEM fields; created strong academic programs; encouraged extra-curricular activities that foster a sense of community and solidarity among students; and focused on recruiting into STEM fields at the middle school and high school levels.
Through its Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science & Technology (WWEST) initiative—established by Elizabeth Croft—UBC has studied and compiled research on the lack of women in STEM fields in university and in the job market.
As of 2006, women represented less than 22 percent of the science and engineering workforce; much of WWEST's research has investigated reasons for this. One of its most important conclusions regards the insidious role played by unconscious bias in facilitating an unfriendly work environment via gendered language and stereotyping, social identity threat, and micro-aggressions. These operate as early as the job recruitment and application stage.
The Business Case
WWEST's research has shown that rectifying the gender balance in the engineering workplace as well as having more women in positions of authority leads to greater innovation, increased organizational success, higher employee satisfaction, and a higher return on sales and investment capital: The Business Case for Gender Diversity.
In order to facilitate professional opportunities for female engineers and diminish the occurrence and impact of unconscious bias and micro-aggressions, WWEST research advises that places of learning, research, and business in STEM fields increase female mentoring, implement diversity education for all employees, and articulate clear criteria for advancement.
WWEST research highlights the importance of educating women from a young age about what engineers are and what they do—and using non-gendered definitions to do so. Lack of awareness combined with gender stereotypes has historically resulted in girls self-selecting out of engineering as a career path while still in high school.
In short, UBC—consistently one of the five highest-ranked universities in Canada and consistently one of the top 30 in the world—has done the research to ensure that its practices and approaches to the field of engineering are inclusive and progressive.