Conestoga news

October 10, 2013 2:13 PM

Supporting women in trades and technology

The Women in Trades and Technology (WITT) group at Conestoga has developed a resource far greater than they imagined - the group itself.

Third-year Software Engineering Technology student Samantha Campbell has taken over the reigns as Chair of WITT, with a supportive network designed to nurture female prosperity in the male-dominated programs at the college.

“Sam is WITT,” electronics engineering professor Jane Carr said. “She is making this a network support type of gathering. When I was in school, we didn’t have that. We didn’t have CEOs, or women that we could talk to. Sam is in the perfect position because she works at Communitech as well, and she is a woman in a non-traditional occupation,” something that is still rare in the workforce.

Female students in trades and technology programs are still a small demographic within the college. Recognition of the need for a supportive community and networking opportunities to strengthen the ties between peers grew out of Campbell’s experiences at her co-op placement at BlackBerry.

“I did 16 months of co-op at BlackBerry and found there weren’t a lot of women in technology roles at all - lots of marketing, lots of support staff, but not many developers, so I joined a bunch of community networking groups that were for women in tech-based roles, and I wanted to bring something like that back to the college with me because I could see a need for it,” Campbell said.

The WITT group held their first on October 2. Campbell aims to host events at least once each month with times during the day and evening to accommodate all women in the programs. “I want to create a community where they feel more welcome, (and) so they stay and get the support, mentoring or help they need,” she said.

With WITT picking up speed both in person and online, the Facebook group ‘Women in Trades and Technology (WITT) at Conestoga College’ has been created as a forum to engage with members on upcoming events and extend the supportive network to those who may not be able to participate in person.

Panels, special events, round table chats, discussions with industry experts and CEOs and mentoring sessions will be held at both Doon and Cambridge campuses throughout the school year.

“The women who stick it out (for the duration of the program) are the ones who have strong supports - those are the ones that make it through,” Carr said, urging students to get involved to build their sense of community. As one of the few female engineering professors at the Doon campus, Carr understands how, for women, “sometimes it feels isolated.”

Carr will be representing Women in Trades and Technology at the Oct. 19 Go ENG Girl event to be held at Conestoga’s Cambridge Campus on October 19. The event is designed to encourage young girls in grades seven to ten to explore the world of engineering.

Story by Laurie Snell, second-year student in Conestoga’s Print-Journalism program.