Megan Green and Allie Bachtold
With an open mind, and a packed suitcase full of Western gear, I was ready to go to CDE and experience it all! As this was my first conference, there was a lot to take in. To anyone who’s going to an engineering conference, this is my advice to you:
- Bring patches for trading: trading patches is everyone’s go to way of meeting each other. Every school has them, and it’s a great way to talk to other schools about their traditions and the story behind each patch.
- Sleep: get enough sleep, as the weekend (or however long the conference may be) will be full of fun and exciting activities. Catch the z’s when you can, so you don’t fall asleep during activities.
- Push yourself to meet as many people as you can: I had the opportunity to go on the conference with close friends of mine, and we would travel the first day together as a group. It was through splitting up that we were able to make friends with other people from other schools. Sit with new people at lunch, during sessions, and at dinner, as you will get to know everyone really quickly.
- Know what the schedule is like: This seems obvious, but it is important to understand when everything is happening, as you can plan the day before what sessions you would like to attend.
- Ask (and answer) questions: not only does it enhance your experience, but others may be thinking the same thing. It is also important to question the material you receive, and answering questions helps to engage more people in discussion, as some may agree or disagree with your opinion.
- Be a sponge: Listen and write down as much as you can during the conference, as information you have learned can be transferred back to Western!
My experience at the Conference on Diversity in Engineering was incredible. I met some amazing speakers and connected with other students from all over Canada. The main things I learned from this conference were that, everyone has something to bring to the table. In every team you work with or people you share interests with, everyone has a unique way of approaching a task and their own set of skills to bring. This is ultimately what makes diversity so incredible. It’s important that as a society, we do not restrict ourselves to biased opinions or let other peoples opinions affect the way we think of others, but rather to embrace the beauty that is inclusion and diversity in our world.
CDE being the first national engineering conference I’d ever attended, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was excited to meet people with the same passion as myself for improving engineering culture and promoting inclusivity within engineering. At first, I didn’t think there would be much to learn from other schools because I thought the way Western had been operating didn’t seem out of the ordinary from a typical university. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the engineering undergraduate programs at the schools across Canada were very different. Talking to delegates from other schools, it was very interesting to learn that they differed in things as basic as the types of disciplines offered at their schools. Other schools had mental health services specific to engineering, very different methods for the distribution of coveralls, and even cafes in their engineering lounges. The conference created a safe place for these engineers from across Canada to come together and share their experiences and what they had learnt so far in their undergrad. Through talking to other delegates, I was able to learn a lot about ways Western Engineering could improve themselves and possibly implement new clubs and programs to improve the undergraduate experience. Overall, attending my first conference was an amazing experience and I’ve come out of it with a lot of new skills and ideas for improving Western Engineering.
My expectations were greatly surpassed at CDE! I was blown away by the passion that all of the delegates had regarding diversity and inclusion in engineering, as well as the progress that has been made in diversity in engineering that was highlighted by many of the presenters. My favourite part of the conference was networking with other delegates to hear their perceptive on diversity and what other schools are doing to combat issues surrounding inclusivity. I especially enjoyed discussing ways in which other schools faced issues of resilience and mental health in their engineering student body. I was inspired to bring many of these ideas back to Western Engineering.
Being able to attend the 2017 Conference for Diversity in Engineering was an amazing and eye-opening experience. It was my first foray into the larger engineering community within Canada, and I loved it. While all the sessions and keynotes were impressive and a great learning experience, I found the true value of the conference to be speaking with the other delegates. Hearing the different points of view that students from all over Canada have, finding out the differences in how each engineering school works, learning about the different career and extracurricular opportunities that I had never even heard of, it was all fantastic. Going to CDE 2017 led to me becoming more involved in something I’m passionate about, EngiQueers Canada, by joining the executive team, as we had our first nationwide meeting at the conference. Don’t get me wrong, I learned so much from the sessions, panels, and workshops, but I feel like I learned just as much from being immersed in engineering culture for a weekend.
My weekend at CDE was nothing less of inspiring and informative. Every session I attended brought forward a new topic of discussion -- some more comfortable than others. It was because this uncomfortableness that I thought the Combating Rape Culture in Engineering session was the most valuable session I attended. Some of the statistics given through the session were upsetting and surprising. To list a few: one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, as well as only one in three Canadians understand what sexual consent means. Throughout the session, the leader provided us with tips to help prevent/ put a stop to sexual violence, as well as what we can do to help survivors. My main take away from the session was to speak up! If you know something is wrong, do not stay silent. It is through communication that situations can be avoided, or taken care of in a safe manner.
The session gave us some useful tips that I wish to share. In order to take action to end sexual violence, it is important to listen to survivor stories, learn about power and control, as well as how different forms of oppression intersect. We must also “treat bystander intervention like first aid”, and read about what we could do before situations happen. As rape is not a topic brought up in everyday conversation, it is important that when someone does bring it up, we give them our full and respectful attention. It is through listening that we can help a friend! For more information, visit http://sacha.ca.
At the conference, there were so many amazing speakers and presentations received. Each presentation had so many important take-aways and I’m glad I had the chance to attend. My favourite presentation I attended was presented by Deanna Burgart. Her presentation was called Indigeneering the Power of Diversity and it focused on embracing inclusion of Indigenous perspective in the engineering profession. Deanna is a Cree woman from Alberta and she also is a Professional Engineer who works in the Oil, Gas and Pipeline Industry; she even owns her own engineering consulting firm named Indigenous Engineering Inclusion Inc. Her presentation focused on the hardships she faced being an Indigenous woman. When she was young, she wanted to enter into science and math subjects in school. Like many indigenous students, her family did not think she could be successful in this choice of career path. Despite her families doubts, Deanna excelled in her studies and obtained a degree in Chemical Engineering at Lakehead University. She is a physical example of an Indigenous woman that is breaking barriers in the Engineering profession. She has defined the term of “Indigeneer” as someone that incorporates engineering principles and traditional teachings of culture and the earth into one. She believes that Indigenous peoples’ way of approaching traditional engineering problems is the catalyst to sustainability.
Before attending the Conference on Diversity within Engineering (CDE) I knew about most of the predominant issues within engineering, but I didn’t know why they existed or what to do to make changes. Going into the conference I knew that I wanted to learn more about why there is such an apparent lack of diversity with engineering and what it would mean for me as a woman of colour in the field. There were many impactful sessions over the course of the conference but the one that impacted me the most would be the Women of Colour in Engineering Panel. This panel consisted of four engineers, who talked about their experiences as women of colour in engineering and some of the hardships they faced. The stories that these women shared were truly inspiring, it was amazing to hear about what they had gone through in their life and how far they had come despite all of it. From their experience, they were able to provide helpful tips on how to combat sexism, racism and unwanted comments. They were able to offer insight on how to combat the wage gap, fight for promotions and speak up for yourself. As a female engineer it was refreshing to finally see women in such high positions, as it’s not something I get to see very often.
The presenters were all very inspiring and I took away a lot from them. The first keynote speaker discussed the personal hardships she has faced being a woman in engineering. She taught us strategies to make engineering education and the engineering profession a more inclusive environment. Her biggest take-away was that diversity is not a charity cause or the “right thing to do”, it is in fact, the only thing to do. Engineers serve society, which is made up of the entire spectrum of individuals; therefore engineers should accurately represent our clients. Another highlight was a panel session made up of Indigenous engineers discussing how they have had to overcome prejudice in the profession and how to include Indigenous knowledge into engineering. Overall, I am extremely motivated by CDE to expand on the work that has been done regarding diversity in engineering.
While all the sessions were informative and gripping, with some amazing personal experiences being divulged, I found the session that I took the most away from was Fostering Culture Change in Engineering. It was led by one of the previous organisers of McMaster’s Orientation Week, and he walked us through the drastic changes he saw and helped implement at McMaster to make not only their Orientation Week, but their entire school culture, more inclusive. He touched on ensuring that their orientation leaders had gone to an inclusivity workshop, that first year students were being exposed to healthy language and a diverse leadership team, that all events should be looked at while thinking of intersectionality, and that being diverse and inclusive doesn’t make things less fun. The biggest takeaway from the session I had was that the best way to change engineering culture is to foster it in first years, and that it takes time.