Good Jobs, Competitive Pay, Interesting Work - Why Aren’t Women Applying?

by Keith Powell
A scientist looking into a microscope.

Engineers and Geoscientists BC, the governing and regulatory body for the professions, has endorsed a Canadian strategy called 30 by 30, which aims to raise the percentage of newly licensed female engineers to 30 percent by the year 2030. — Photo courtesy Reeta Asmai/UC Davis

They are professions that offer good jobs, competitive wages and dynamic work and yet too few women are pursuing enriching careers in engineering and geoscience, says the president of Engineers and Geoscientists British Columbia.

“These are exciting careers and we need to encourage girls and young women to pursue them,” says Kathy Tarnai-Lokhorst, a mechanical engineer who heads the 35,000-member organization. “I started my career designing and building airplanes. How cool is that?”

March is National Engineering and Geoscience Month, a time to celebrate our many advancements while attempting to spark an interest in science, exploration and discovery among today’s youth – especially girls and young women.

In British Columbia today, women make up just 12 per cent of engineers. Engineers and Geoscientists BC, the governing and regulatory body for the professions, has endorsed a Canadian strategy called 30 by 30, which aims to raise the percentage of newly licensed female engineers to 30 percent by the year 2030. Career outreach, school presentations and mentorship are just some of the ways being used to meet the goal.

This month, events will be held across British Columbia to inspire young people to appreciate science, technology, engineering and math. Activities include friendly competitions, popsicle-stick bridge building and the Science Games at TELUS World of Science.

“This is an awesome career and it all started with a popsicle-stick bridge I built when I was 13,” says Christina Noel, an environmental engineer-in-training working in Vancouver. “I learned I could use my love of math and science to solve problems and create solutions. I can’t believe how many career opportunities there are.”

Diverse job opportunities for engineers and geoscientists are predicted to grow in the coming years which is combined with a wave of retirements.

“Our economy will be stronger when we address this gender disparity,” says Tarnai-Lokhorst. “Innovation improves when more diverse viewpoints are included.”

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