Female engineering enrolment reaches all-time high

Outreach programs in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) have been successful in attracting more women to study engineering at the University of Waterloo.

This year, women made up 27 per cent of the incoming student population in engineering programs at UW. That number contributes to an overall increase of 10 per cent over the last decade.

With outreach programs such as Go ENG Girl and the Ontario Network for Women in Engineering (ONWiE), UW has put itself above the national average for female enrolment in engineering, which is at 18.1 per cent, according to the latest report from Engineers Canada.

“Most of the young women coming into engineering are among some of the most elite applicants that Waterloo gets,” said Dr. May Wells, ONWiE chair and associate dean for outreach in the faculty of engineering.

“The female presence goes relatively unchanged from freshman year to graduation. Since women are some of our strongest students, we don’t see a higher drop rate in their population,” Wells said.

“Only about 33 per cent of the population that takes the engineering prerequisite of Grade 12 physics are women, so [the] fact that [the] incoming class is almost 30 per cent means that we’re getting just about as many female applicants as we can.”

Wells said that a current factor that may contribute to young women not pursuing an engineering education is the misconception that “girls can’t be engineers.”

“I see a lot of Grade 7 and 8 girls who think that women just can’t be engineers. For some reason or another, it just doesn’t occur to them.”

Many of the outreach events from Go ENG Girl and ONWiE try to involve girls in engineering projects well before high school.

When asked about what’s next for outreach, Wells mentioned that ONWiE will be hosting Go Code Girl, which will seek to teach and expose young girls to computer programming.