By Aditi Nimkar
Second-year, Chemical Engineering

In the 21st century, what can a woman be?

She can be a variety of things ranging from an artist to a scientist and over the year we have seen a growth in the population of women in STEM.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These subjects are dominated by men.

To find out what female participation in STEM subjects looks like on our campus, we surveyed Laurentian students.

This is what we found:

Biomed and other sciences are actually very diverse with an almost equal number of women and men in our university. A lot of young women are here to learn more about the biological, physical and chemical aspects of life and are also are leaders of various pre-med and other science clubs.

Fun fact: Laurentian is one of the very few institutions in our country offering bachelors in forensic sciences.

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What about engineering?

Almost 25% of chemical engineering students at Laurentian University are women. The program has grown over the years, with a friendly environment and supportive male peers.

Here’s what some chemical engineering students have to say:

“It was in hard in the beginning, not knowing anyone was hard. As time went on I made female friends. Hopefully, students struggling with finding supportive female peers will consider joining the new Women in Engineering club, or any other engineering clubs. Clubs have brought me closer to a lot of female support over the years.”

“You won’t regret choosing a career in engineering because it opens up an endless amount of opportunities for you by allowing you to gain a considerable amount of knowledge & skills.”

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The other branches of engineering, which include mechanical and mining engineering, are not as diverse.

The programs are filled with guys and that can be a little overwhelming. C’mon girls, what’s with you guys and engineering majors? It’s fun, more hands-on, exciting and has real-life applications. Anyone who was into math and science in high school would be interested in the programs.

According to Statistics Canada:

“Young women with a high level of mathematical ability are significantly less likely to enter STEM fields than young men, even young men with a lower level of mathematical ability. This suggests that the gender gap in STEM-related programs is due to other factors. Other possible explanations might include differences in labour market expectations including family and work balance, differences in motivation and interest, and other influences.”
– Darcy Hango, Sarah- Jane Ferguson

But in this world of growing womanhood and changing mentalities, why should STEM remain confined to men? If you love math and sciences and are ready to do something that can make a difference, then engineering is the branch for you.

Engineers like Elsie MacGill (B. Aeronautical Eng), M. Elizabeth Cannon (geomatics), Indira Samarasekera (B Mech. Eng) and Dominique Anglade (B. Industrial Eng) are some well-known women engineers who have inspired a lot of other women to get a degree in engineering. It’s all possible and it’s all not so hard. All you need the willpower to overcome all the societal obstacles.

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Here are some inspiring quotes from our Women in Engineering gang at LU:

“Diversity is integral to STEM programs. Having new perspectives and ideas is what these professions need to move forward. We all benefit from supporting diversity, and we need to encourage people who wouldn’t ordinarily pursue these careers to do so, as well we need to support them throughout the journey.”
Trust yourself. You need to be confident in your abilities. I have often doubted myself when I shouldn’t have, and having the confidence to speak up is really important. Also, get involved. clubs. Friends are an extremely important support system that you will need. Having people to look up to, and mentors will really help you to look forward to the future instead of fearing it.”
– Kathrine Manarin, third-year, Chemical Engineering.

“Don’t listen to anyone. Do whatever you want to do. Don’t let anyone put you down;  follow your own path.”
– Alexie Moreau, second-year, Mechanical Engineering

It’s not the courses that are hard, but it is our mentality. Anything and everything is possible and in this new world. Why stay behind? Engineering courses are also meant for women. It’s not a “guy thing.” With STEM comes growth, and with women, STEM grows.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained”
– Marie Curie, scientist and  Nobel Prize recipient

You Go Girl!

Reading References:

  1. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2013001/article/11874-eng.htm
  2. https://engineerscanada.ca/diversity/women-in-engineering

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