On October 5, more than 30 girls in Grades 7 to 10 and their caregivers attended Go ENG Girl at Conestoga’s Cambridge campus to explore the world of engineering through guest speakers, hands-on activities and interactive discussions.
Hosted annually by Canada’s top post-secondary institutions, the event was developed by the Ontario Network of Women in Engineering (ONWiE) to help encourage the next generation of women to pursue careers in engineering and technology. According to ONWiE, women make up less than 13 per cent of professional engineers in Ontario and account for only 21 per cent of engineering students in the province.
The event offered an opportunity for participants to meet women in engineering to gain insight into education and career possibilities. Among the industry professionals, Conestoga graduates and current students sharing their journey, was Sarah Broda, a third-year Mechanical Engineering Technology - Robotics and Automation student.
“If you had asked me ten years ago what I wanted to be, I wouldn’t have said that I wanted to be an engineer,” Broda shared with the group of caregivers. “In high school, engineering and trades courses weren’t even on my radar -- I took mostly humanities courses.”
Broda said she was encouraged to look into engineering programs at Conestoga after realizing the arts program she was enrolled in at university was not for her. “I have a few positive role models that work in engineering and they recommended Conestoga specifically because it is one of the top tech schools in Ontario.”
After completing the college’s Technology Foundations program, Broda said she was encouraged to continue her education in mechanical engineering by role models she found amongst Conestoga’s female faculty members. Currently on the last of three co-op work terms included in her program, Broda said she feels that she has a better understanding of what the industry has to offer her, and shared encouragement for other women to explore careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
“The ratio of men to women in STEM may never be equal, but there is currently a huge gap to fill,” said Broda. “Women make up 48 per cent of the workforce in Ontario, but only occupy less than a quarter of the jobs in STEM. In addition, engineering is the least common STEM major women pursue.”
Broda went on to explain why those numbers matter. “Engineers are making technological advancements that are changing our lives. They’re making breakthroughs in medicine, energy conversions, signal transmissions -- if women make up half of the population, then we deserve a voice in innovations that are changing our society. We need a diverse set of perspectives to innovate in a way that is responsive to all human needs. Engineering is a continuous cycle -- teaching, learning, collaborating -- and diversity in that workflow benefits everyone.”
Broda’s twin Melissa shares a similar story to her sister. Following a few tries at finding the right program at university, Melissa also decided to enroll in the Technology Foundations program at Conestoga after seeing her sister’s passion for what she was learning. Melissa is now a month into the first semester of the same mechanical engineering program her sister is in.
“I would like to thank you for bringing your girls here today and allowing them to explore engineering to see if it’s something that interests them,” Broda continued. “I wish I had opportunities like this when I was younger, but I am so happy to be a part of this event and to be speaking to you today. Please, encourage your girls to pursue engineering in the years ahead -- together, we can change the face of the industry.”
Conestoga’s School of Engineering & Technology offers a comprehensive suite of programs with a wide range of credentials. Conestoga is the only college in Ontario to offer fully accredited engineering degrees. Programs feature project-based learning, co-op work experience and applied research opportunities to prepare graduates for success in their chosen fields.