Engineer’s Canada 30 by 30 Conference: Attendee Insights

Written by: Kim Bouffard, Manager of Belonging and Engagement

This past Wednesday on May 22nd Engineers Canada hosted their second in-person 30 by 30 conference in Winnipeg Manitoba. The conference brought together engineering regulators, higher education institutions, industry leaders, and gender equity champions from across the country to discuss what we’ve learned over the past five years through the 30 by 30 initiative. For those of you who don’t know, 30 by 30 is a national goal that was adopted ten years ago by Engineers Canada to raise the percentage of newly licensed engineers who are women to 30 per cent by the year 2030. Thirty per cent is universally held as the tipping point for sustainable change.

The conference kicked off with a keynote address by Prairie Research Associates—they were hired to do an environmental scan of the current state of women in engineering in Canada and conducted a formative evaluation of the initiative. In their address, they highlighted how the initiative has had many successes over the last ten years, bringing much needed attention to the lack of representation of women in Engineering and how the profession continues to be an unwelcoming work environment for women.

Currently, women make up less than 17 percent of the profession and newly licensed engineers account for 20.2 percent. As part of the keynote, it was shared that it is unlikely that the 30 by 30 goal will be achieved, leaving the room with the question, what now?

Throughout the day, Engineers Canada, through breakout sessions, panels and workshops started to pave a path forward. The theme of the conference was “Transforming Knowledge into Action for Gender Equity in Engineering” and focused on the need for the engineering profession to refocus and regroup its collective efforts to address this complex system issue.

It was Kim Bouffard, Engineers Canada’s Manager of Belonging and Engagement that captured the essence of the day best through her closing remarks where she asked the over 345 people in the room, a room filled by some of the most influential men and women from across the engineering ecosystem “Are we ready to change? Are we willing to do what needs to be done?” and posed challenge to “not push this problem onto the next generation when we can solve it, together, for them”.

Workshops, panels and keynotes emphasized that the short comings of the initiative can only be overcome if we start to collectively address the barriers that women face. Engineering regulators, higher education institutions and employers need to take action to address the barriers that they control and influence. With only six year’s left to the goal, time will tell if we are able to make the necessary cultural shifts to move the needle.

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