Female engineering enrolment top in country

Queen’s has the highest rate for female enrolment in engineering in Canada for post-secondary

Queen’s has the highest rate of female engineering students.
Queen’s has the highest rate of female engineering students.

More than a quarter of students within Queen’s Faculty of Engineering and Applied Sciences are female, the highest average for female enrolment in the country.

Approximately 28 per cent of this year’s incoming class is female, compared to the national average of between 17-19 per cent.

In 2011, 2,687 were admitted to the Faculty, 687 of who were female. In the previous year, there were 632.

Lynann Clapham, associate dean of the Faculty, said female volunteers help promote female enrolment.

“The female engineers are very strong boosters. They come out in droves to our recruiting events,” she said.

Although the Faculty doesn’t specifically market towards females, Clapham said this female volunteer base encourages female applicants.

She said presence of female students and a female dean and associate dean make a difference.

“We just give the usual [promotional] talk,” Clapham said. “I think the fact that I’m there and the [Dean] is there. That speaks louder than what you could say.”

She added female students tend to feel more comfortable studying engineering at Queen’s

Clapham said that the typical first-year structure at Queen’s, where students take general engineering courses makes the program less competitive, which appeals to women.

She added a focus on community also draws women to Queen’s.

“We’ve had the ‘Create, Collaborate, Communicate’ mantra for 10 years, we really focus on that. I talk about how that creates a better engineer,” she said.

This ‘mantra’ is placed on the front of the Faculty’s brochures they give out to prospective students.

“We simply stand on our principles, and those principles seem to be principles that do attract a larger proportion of girls than other programs,” she said.

Despite this, she added work still needs to be done to encourage equality in the sciences.

“[Society] doesn’t do very well in general in attracting women into science, technology, engineering, and math. I don’t think we can ever rest on our laurels,” she said.

She said reaching out young students is the best way to foster a future career in science.

“We do everything we can to promote the cause of science and math to young girls,” she said.

“We let them know that this is a normal thing to do for girls.”

The University is also home to Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), a student-run organization that reaches out to the Kingston community to promote the sciences to young girls.

Nicole Proulx, the president of WISE, said she feels Queen’s engineering creates a positive environment.

“It’s a good thing that they have a greater support network with the female students in engineering,” Proulx, Sci ’14, said.

She said that WISE runs activities with boys and girls clubs, girl guides and elementary schools to promote an early interest in science.

Students aren’t adequately informed about engineering prior to university, she added.

“I think the [enrolment] numbers for females are so low because young people don’t know what engineering is before they actually get into it,” she said, adding that it’s important for future engineers to see women in the field.

“[Outreach] programs provide role models for [girls], because they see women who are studying engineering and succeeding,” she said.

“Being a female engineer has never posed any issues for me, and I’ve only heard positive stories.”

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