February 23, 2015 11:32 pm

Record number of female students enroll in UBC Engineering program

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WATCH: Another bastion of male dominance, UBC Engineering, is undergoing some changes. Elaine Yong reports.

More women than ever are enrolled in the University of British Columbia’s first-year engineering program.

Nearly one out of every three of the university’s first-year engineering students is female compared to 2010 when that number was only one in five. The university chalks up the increase to its concentrated efforts to get female students interested in applied science.

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“I think women tend to be more organized,” said Sophia Piché, a fourth-year student in UBC’s Dept. of Civil Engineering. “We like to write things down and track things, which in engineering is critical.”

“Science has proven women think slightly differently than men,” said fourth-year civil engineering student Christina Noël. “We approach problems in different ways and I think just having that different approach from a bunch of different people makes diversifying your team and finding a more optimal solution a whole lot easier.”

Elizabeth Croft of UBC’s Faculty of Applied Science created Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science & Technology (WWEST), a program that encourages young women to explore careers in engineering, science and technology.

Sheryl Staub-French of UBC’s Dept. of Civil Engineering says increasing diversity in the traditionally male-dominated field of engineering is good for the bottom line.

“Greater diversity in engineering professions leads to better more outcomes, more productivity, more profitability,” said Staub-French. “All the research bears this out.”

Increasing female participation in applied science could help prevent a possible labour shortage. Canada is expected to have a shortage of 102,000 engineers by 2020.

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