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Research firm offers diversity pathway for regulators, engineering groups

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As Canada continues to have a strong demand for engineers, both at present and in the future, a new report offers a potential pathway to increase diversity and inclusivity within the profession.

Engineers Canada hired PRA Inc. to identify best practices through an analysis of the current national licensure assistance programming and employer awareness programming provided by the 12 provincial and territorial engineering regulators using a gender-based analysis lens.

The newly-released report explores a number of the challenges faced by women, Indigenous persons, and foreign-trained engineers along their pathway to licensure, from being an undergraduate engineering student, to an engineer-in-training, to a newly licensed engineer.

Some of the issues faced by women, in particular, “include an engineering culture which is generally unwelcoming towards women, familial constraints, and a lack of mentors, peers and leaders who are women,” the report states.

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The report notes that women leave the profession in the first five years at a rate of 1½ to two times that of men. For Engineers Canada to reach its goal of raising the percentage of newly licensed female engineers to 30% by 2030, the report recommends that the organization should strategically target national engineering employers as an important stakeholder group, recognizing that they play a critical role in the representation of women in the engineering profession.

While Indigenous persons often face systemic challenges prior to higher education opportunities, those who do enroll in undergraduate engineering programs can also find a lack of Indigenous-targeted support, the report found.

“As with women, there is a lack of Indigenous engineers which makes it challenging for younger Indigenous students and engineers to find mentors or role models,” the report states.

Additionally, the process of recognizing a foreign-trained engineer’s education and experience can be “lengthy, costly, and discouraging,” the report notes.

More broadly, the report also recommends that in collaboration with regulators, Engineers Canada develops a strategy for collecting diversity data across the country that reflects the needs of the regulators and respects their varying capacities to collect such data. In a statement from Engineers Canada, the organization recognized the report’s recommendation that regulators should “better understand who their members are, though most currently only collect information about gender. Without gathering diversity demographics of members, any organization will struggle to know how diverse it actually is.”

The report also gathered perspectives from the engineering regulators on the role that regulators should or can play with respect to increasing the diversity of the profession.

The report recommends that Engineers Canada and the engineering regulators engage in a gender-based analysis and review of their activities, policies and procedures related to licensure and employer awareness to support a full alignment with their collective goals on diversity, equity and inclusion.

The report suggests that other support measures for underrepresented groups could include lectures and talks, student memberships, scholarships, grants, and mentorship programs for students, and networking opportunities, professional development sessions, training, workshops and information sessions.

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