December 6, 2019 marks the 30 year anniversary of the tragic “Montreal Massacre” at École Polytechnique that took the lives of fourteen rigourous, hopeful and brave engineering women.
The murderer was previously denied admission to the school. It was later found that he was upset about women working in positions traditionally occupied by men, specifically in engineering. On this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, also known as White Ribbon Day, we want to send our love and support to women in engineering and engineering technology fields.
We would also like to acknowledge that although more women are pursuing engineering degrees and careers than ever before, they remain underrepresented in the industry. The cause is not lack of interest or ability. Broad societal stereotypes and expectations by teachers, peers, family and friends are the highest deterrents for women pursuing STEM fields.
Read one woman’s reflection on making the choice to pursue engineering after the attack, and her calls to action.
What can be done? “We need to apply what we know about innovation to drive diversity and inclusion. Education is one of the least effective ways of shifting behaviour: knowing that more women in STEM would be good for the economy, inclusive systems design and innovation is not enough,” writes Wendy Cukier, Professor at Ryerson University.
A commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the practices, strategies and values needs to be made and followed closely with strategic and scalable action. According to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, EDI strengthens engineering communities. EDI increases the quality, social relevance and impact of research.
“Sound equity, diversity and inclusion practices increase access to the largest pool of qualified potential participants, enhance the integrity of a program’s application and selection processes, strengthen the research outputs, and increase the overall excellence of research.” – NSERC
In addition to organizational commitments we must check our actions and conversations to align with EDI.
Not sure how to begin getting up to speed with EDI? Check out this Insider Higher Ed article. Begin by examining where you are, map your route and lean on your network for direction.