Why did I want to be president of Professional Engineers Ontario? I wanted to drive cultural change in engineering and serve as a role model for women to take my place. Also,  rather than criticize my organization from the outside, I set out to try and improve it from the inside.

Starting the discussion earlier

As President of PEO, I participated in an invitation-only Learning Partnership Summit on April 10 in Toronto with Minister of Education, Hon. Liz Sandals.  I used that opportunity to raise the issue of the impact that grade 11 physics has on streaming students either to the engineering field or not, particularly the issue of young girls not being interested in taking the subject. Why don’t we rename itand revamp that course curriculum to make it more attractive to grade 10 girls?

The need for role models

Female role models in engineering are also important to young girls. Over the past decade I’ve been pleased to see a number of new organizations that celebrate and showcase women’s careers. One such organization in Canada is Women of Influence. I was truly humbled to be named as one of their Top 25 Women of Influence of 2013. Now in its third year, the ranking is designed to celebrate and showcase the achievements of the most influential Canadian women in business, health, non-government organizations, professional services, and the public sector.

Making an impact

One of the criterion for the ranking is to have made a significant difference in your chosen field. I am thrilled that the profession of engineering is being highlighted overall, but also as a rewarding career path for women. I am the sixth female president of PEO in 91 years! This recognition raises awareness to those of us who are driving an important culture shift in the workplace by acting as role models for women and girls.

Reaching critical mass

Promoting female role models in engineering will help young women face their fears of entering the profession. I think we’re all familiar with the power of various forms of media in influencing young women. “If she can do it, why can’t I?”

I have always been a firm believer in critical mass and tipping points. We no longer worry about having enough women in medicine and law. Now that women dominate undergraduate campuses, engineering outreach programs will succeed in attracting more women to engineering.