In 2016, according to Statistics Canada, women made up only 23% of science and technology workers among Canadians aged 25 to 64. To see these numbers rise, we first need to see greater gender diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs in the classroom.
Algonquin College offers a program called We Saved You a Seat, an initiative that encourages and supports women who want to enter STEM careers. Sarah Gauen is an Inclusion and Diversity Specialist at Algonquin College. “We want to make sure that we have a space for women to excel in our STEM programs,” she says. “We’re doing that by implementing a series of programs to support women on campus.”
One of these initiatives is to reserve 30% of STEM classroom seats for qualified women. “Research shows that 30% is the critical mass needed to change the dynamic in our classrooms, teaching business skills that are necessary in the workforce, such as how to work effectively in a team that includes women,” says Gauen.
Algonquin College also offers financial aid, mentoring, and gender inclusive teaching as part of the program.
I think one of the demonstrated benefits of having a gender diverse group is the number of perspectives that are brought to the table.Guillaume Paradis, Hydro Ottawa
Gender diversity brings broader perspectives at Hydro Ottawa
Guillaume Paradis is the Chief Electricity Distribution Officer at Hydro Ottawa. He agrees that it’s necessary to include more women in STEM and trade careers. “I think one of the demonstrated benefits of having a gender diverse group is the number of perspectives that are brought to the table,” he says. “It helps us think differently about the work we do and come up with new, innovative solutions to enhance our practices.”
Hydro Ottawa has recently partnered with Algonquin College to expand the We Saved You a Seat initiative to include, starting in fall 2020, the powerline technician program it delivers jointly with the College.
To support women entering the powerline technician program, Hydro Ottawa is also introducing the Hydro Ottawa award. “Over the next three years, one first-year, full-time female student will be awarded $2,500 toward her tuition and her goal of working in the trades,” says Paradis.