Chair in Women in Engineering position approved by Board of Trustees

New role made possible by three-million-dollar anonymous donation

Board of Trustees approves Chair in Women in Engineering position.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

At its December meeting, the Board of Trustees approved a new position for a Chair in Women in Engineering. The position will be in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science.

The appointment for the position is a five-year term.

The proposal for the position was submitted by the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science to the Senate Committee on Academic Development (SCAD). After it passed through SCAD, it was forwarded to the Senate and the Board of Trustees.

According to the proposal, the Chair-holder will maintain active research, serve as a role model and mentor for young women in the faculty, and provide undergraduate and graduate instruction. The Chair-holder will also focus on addressing the under-representation of women in engineering and plan and participate in outreach, advocacy, and professional training for females in engineering.

“Queen’s has historically been a leader in [female representation in engineering],” Kevin Deluzio, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, told The Journal. “The issue is that, while good work is being done, we’re still far shy from where we need to be.”

Appointed dean in 2017, Deluzio has ambitious goals for the faculty. “Queen’s has been at about 30 per cent female Engineering undergraduates for a while. Without doing some things fundamentally different, that number won’t get bigger. I have no set goal in mind, but 30 per cent is too low.”

“I wanted to continue [former Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science Kimberly Woodhouse]’s legacy of promotion and understanding the issue of women in engineering,” Deluzio said. “I thought it was really important to have a regular faculty member to fulfill this, and have it elevated to a prestigious chair role.”

Deluzio gives credit to a few people in the creation of this role. He said Dr. Keith Pilkey, department head of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has been instrumental in the inception of the new Chair.

“He has hired and supported young women professors and supported female Engineering students,” Deluzio said. “He put the meat around the bones on how this new Chair could make a real impact.”

According to Deluzio, the other key player in making this happen is the anonymous donor, who is making the Chair possible with an endowment of three million dollars.

The anonymous donor, a corporate executive, told Deluzio that when there were more women on his leadership team, they made more money and better decisions. “The donor is really motivated to have more women in engineering, because he sees it as a societal good that will benefit all of society,” Deluzio said.

Deluzio agrees including women in engineering is a priority. “There are amazing examples of engineering decisions being made poorly because the perspective around the table is too narrow.”

According to Deluzio, Queen’s is the first university in Canada to have an endowed chair of this nature.

“There is strong network of people working across the country on [increasing female representation in engineering], and the Chair-holder will work in that network to establish Queen’s as a thought leader in the field,” the Engineering dean said.

Deluzio has identified a variety of ways the faculty of Engineering and Applied Science can attempt to close the gender gap. He says outreach to women in high school, increasing women faculty, and addressing gaps in Engineering curriculum to broaden its focus will contribute to closing the gap.

Ultimately, Deluzio believes the new Chair is an important step to achieving diversity and equality in the faculty. “Engineering is the design of systems, procedures, and things that address the needs of society. All the things we use are at some time touched and designed by an engineer, so we need the greatest perspective,” he said. “There is good recognition that more diverse perspectives bring better solutions.”

 

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