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Record Number of Females Join Canada’s Top Engineering School

January 29, 2015

Women now account for 30.6 percent of first-year students in University of Toronto (U of T) Engineering programs: a record for the Faculty and a number that surpasses all other Ontario universities. It is the only engineering school in Ontario with female first-year enrolment of more than 30 percent. National figures are expected later this year from Engineers Canada.

“U of T Engineering is a rich environment for talented, bright women to become engineering leaders,” said Dean Cristina Amon. “Diverse perspectives are the foundation of our culture of excellence in research, education, service and innovation. This achievement is encouraging as we continue our proactive efforts to foster diversity within the Faculty, among universities, and across the engineering profession.”

Today, one quarter (25.8 percent) of U of T Engineering’s undergraduate population is female, compared to a province-wide average of 19.7 percent. Across Canada and the U.S. last year, those averages were 18.9 percent and 19.9 percent, respectively. The Faculty’s targeted recruitment efforts have been successful, with female undergraduate enrolment up from 21.3 percent just six years ago, alongside rising entrance grade averages for first-year students that reached a record 92.4 percent this year.

“It’s exhilarating to be part of such a diverse and talented student community,” said Teresa Nguyen (CivE 1T4 + PEY), a fourth-year civil engineering student and president of the Faculty’s Engineering Society (which elected its first female president in 1975). “At U of T Engineering, it doesn’t matter what your background is; it’s about the ideas, expertise, and reasoning you bring to the table.”

“My experience at U of T Engineering has been even better than I expected,” said Molly Gorman (ChemE 1T8), a first-year chemical engineering student who eyed U of T since before she started high school. “It’s incredible being a part of Canada’s best engineering school and living in a city filled with so many opportunities!”

As a leader in engineering education and research, U of T Engineering continues to attract world-class Faculty. The complement of female Faculty members has more than doubled in the past eight years, from 21 in 2006 to 44 in 2014. Seventeen percent of Faculty members are women, which is three points higher than the Ontario average (14 percent) and four points higher than the Canadian average (13 percent).

These numbers are expected to grow in the years ahead, as early-career Faculty members move up in the academic ranks. More than a quarter (27.8 percent) of U of T Engineering’s associate professors (early-career, tenure-stream Faculty members) are now women, compared to an Ontario average of 15 percent and a national average of 15.7 percent.

In the 2014–15 academic year, women accounted for three of the four new Faculty members hired at U of T Engineering. In addition, all three of the Faculty’s 2014 Canada Research Chairs are women.

“Engineering has changed significantly from when I began at U of T several decades ago,” said professor Susan McCahan (MIE), U of T’s new vice-provost, innovations in undergraduate education, who was the University’s first female Faculty member in mechanical engineering. “It is increasingly recognized as a vibrant and innovative profession - one that encourages broad perspectives and collaboration to drive positive changes that improve our world.”

Inspiring a new generation of female engineers

“Amidst the increasing numbers of women entering engineering programs, there is more work to be done in attracting women to the diverse and rewarding field of engineering,” said Dean Amon. “We have re-imagined engineering education by introducing program innovations, new resources for students and outreach activities to continue to attract an even more diverse range of applicants, including women.”

As of 2013, women accounted for just 11.7 percent of all professional engineers in Canada. Growing numbers of female engineering students signal a promising future for gender balance in the profession.

U of T Engineering offers many outreach programs that aim to inspire girls and young women. In 2015, more than 560 female participants and 20 female instructors will take part in these programs.

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