International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated annually on Feb. 11 and helps shine light on a workforce where there are still far more men than women.
Madison Marriott is an engineering student at the University of Calgary and president of a student-run organization called WISE.
The group offers support, a chance to network and other opportunities for women in science and engineering and currently has over 1,300 members.
Marriott joined the group three years ago and said it has helped her find her confidence.
“I’m a better leader, I’m a better talker, I’m much more comfortable interacting with my professors, with potential employers — like, I’ve just been made a better overall student by being involved with WISE,” Marriott said.
The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) is trying to tip the scales.
More women are becoming interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, but there are still challenges for women in the male-dominated STEM industry.
Sonja Schwake with APEGA is working on identifying those barriers and found one of the big issues is the impact on career that maternity leave has for women.
She said another major challenge for women is the male-dominated culture, with men in the workplace joining sporting leagues together or doing other extra-curricular activities.
“They may not have the either knowledge or interest to take part in these things, which would be fine, except there is a perception that important business decisions get made in these venues,” Schwake said.
A decade ago, APEGA found only 15 per cent of its engineers were women and the regulator decided to set a goal to double that by the year 2030.
“Thirty per cent isn’t just a random number… that 30 per cent is an actual tipping point for when women start to feel comfortable because there’s enough women in the workforce,” Schwake said.
In order to reach its target, APEGA is collecting feedback from its members and building mentorship and leadership programs for women.