WWEST Goes to the Yukon

June 26, 2017

By: Vanessa Reich-Shackelford

Recently, WWEST Chairholder Dr. Lesley Shannon took a trip to the Yukon to visit women engineers who are part of an initiative called 30 by 30, a commitment made by Engineers Canada, in collaboration with the 12 provincial and territorial engineering regulators, to raise the percentage of newly licensed engineers who are women to 30% by the year 2030. Women make up more than half of the Canadian population, but are significantly under-represented in the engineering profession; less than 12% of practicing licensed engineers are women.

Source: Engineers Canada

In the Yukon, the numbers are even lower. As described by Sandra MacDougall, a regional program manager for Highways and Public Works in Whitehorse who is very involved in the 30 by 30 program, there are 1100 professional engineers registered to practice in the Yukon. The figure to the left shows the percentage of newly licensed woman engineers as 44% in the Yukon, however, MacDougall points out that actually only 130 licensed engineers (both women and men) actually live in the Yukon. The rest work for consulting companies that travel to the Yukon. Of the 130 licensed engineers, 18 are women, so the percentage of women engineers in the Yukon is really only 14%. (It is unclear whether the map on the left includes women who are licensed in the Yukon but do not actually reside there.)


While in the Yukon, Dr. Shannon was hosted by Engineers Yukon (the Yukon regulator of Engineers Canada) and the 30 by 30 committee. She attended meetings, discussions, and talks surrounding increasing the participation of women in STEM. As the NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, WWEST is partnering with these groups to offer support and resources towards Engineers Canada's goal of advancing women in the profession of engineering. Dr. Shannon's visits and talks included those to employers who are working to increase diversity among their ranks. Dr. Shannon says, "While many employers recognize the value of a diverse workforce, realizing that within a company can prove challenging," and goes on to ask, "How do we attract diverse talent, give them equitable opportunities in hiring and promote their inclusion so that they choose to stay?" Dr. Shannon described some of the potential “leaks” in this pipeline to attendees, and led discussions on some of these challenges, and how they might be addressed by the STEM community.

About the partnership with these groups in the Yukon, and about Dr. Shannon's visit, she says, "Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields benefit from the innovative ideas generated by people with unique perspectives and insights, thereby benefitting all Canadians. I am extremely excited to work with a community as engaged in promoting inclusion and diversity as the Yukon."

To hear insights directly from women engineers in the Yukon, join Dr. Shannon as she speaks with Sandra MacDougall and Alison Anderson in a special on-location Best of the WWEST interview in Whitehorse. You'll learn some Yukon history, hear about how climate change is affecting their region, and discover the Yukon's role in the 30 by 30 initiative. You can listen to the interview here.

Engineers Canada has also reported that across Canada there has been a moderate increase in licensed engineers. As stated above, 44% of newly licensed women engineers are licensed to practice in the Yukon (but only 17.2% of engineers, regardless of gender, actually live in the Yukon, according to the report - across Canada, 88.1% of women engineers live in the jurisdiction where they are licensed). For every 1,000 people, there are 3.6 engineers in the Yukon.

There is still work to be done, but progress is being made.

You can subscribe to the Best of the WWEST podcast by searching for us on your favourite podcast provider, or visiting the podcast section of our website here.

Find Engineers Yukon here.