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.