Collaboration, not competition

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Reports have recently been released that one in three women in Waterloo Region have claimed high levels of stress, the most in all of Canada.  However, mainstream media has seemingly turned a blind eye to the fact that men in the region are also among the most stressed in the country.


According to UW professor Aimee Morrison, these high stress levels in women are caused by the manufacturing and tech job market which dominates Waterloo Region, a sector which employs more males than females. 


“As a woman in engineering, you are a little bit unusual so you tend to stand out a little bit more. So I think if anything that’s a little bit of an advantage,” said UW’s mechanical engineering professor Mary Wells. Wells estimated that roughly 15 per cent of the university’s engineering professors are female, reflective as well of the engineering student population.


“I don’t feel as though being a minority in the classroom adds stress. Everyone works together as students. It’s not a competition. It’s very much a collaborative process where everyone is on the same team,” added Alison Scott, a UW master’s student in chemical engineering.


The report went further to say that regions with high-paying jobs in the public sector found lower stress levels among both men and women, leading Wells and Scott to question whether the issue of stress is truly a gender one, or simply the nature of the work being done here in Waterloo Region.


“There’s a lot of entrepreneurship here. A lot of it is hard work, so if you want to create new things, it’s a higher intensity than a regular job when you go in at nine and leave at five. These young entrepreneurs are working 24/7,” said Wells. “Waterloo is one of the top 50 in the world in engineering. You don’t get there by doing a nine to five job. When you’re getting to an elite level like that, inherently there is associated stress with that.”


While it stands true that Waterloo Region displayed the widest gap between male and female self-reported stress, this high level of stress is not limited to women.


“In the Waterloo Region you’ve got a lot of high-tech firms, you have a lot of start-up companies who are under a lot of pressure to perform. You’re in a competitive environment. The Waterloo Region has a higher proportion of that type of job, and that naturally will lead to stress,” said Michael Worsick, engineering professor at UW.


Online posts further enforced Wells&rsquo; and Scott&rsquo;s beliefs that the study needs to &ldquo;dig deeper to find out why there is more stress for women and men in particular areas of the country,&rdquo; as Max Howard commented in response to <em>CTV</em>&rsquo;s article: &ldquo;Study suggests women in Waterloo Region most stressed in Canada.&rdquo;


&ldquo;Waterloo has done a fantastic job and is really a leader in promoting and supporting women in engineering. I&rsquo;m really impressed with what Waterloo has done in that regard,&rdquo; said Wells.


&ldquo;At the end of the day we&rsquo;re trying to get the best talent to do the work and we want to encourage that talent to come from all aspects, whether it&rsquo;s male or female. In general, we&rsquo;re trying to increase the representation we have in both gender groups,&rdquo; said Worsick.
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