Women of Innovation: The Impact of Leading Engineers in Canada

March 02, 2018

Written By: Vanessa Reich-Shackelford

International Women's Day is just around the corner on March 8th, a perfect time to profile a project funded as part of the WWEST and eng•cite Funding Partners Program that is making change in a big way: the Women of Innovation Symposium and the book published parallel to the event.

Hosted by Dr. Mary Wells and Dr. Anne Millar of the University of Waterloo as part of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum's (CIM/ICM) annual conference, the Women of Innovation symposium took place on August 30th, 2017, with the aim of recognizing and documenting the experiences and accomplishments of innovative Canadian women in engineering, and disseminating their inspiring stories. The event featured panels with topics such as “Building the Archives of Canadian Women in Science, Engineering, and Innovation,” “Engineers in Industry,” and “Engineers in Academia and Government.” A keynote address also featured Dr. Elizabeth Cannon (president of the University of Calgary), as well as talks by Dr. Anne Millar and Dr. Mary Wells, Dr. Barbara Paldus of Finesse Solutions Inc., and Dr. Elicia Maine of Simon Fraser University. The speakers all addressed barriers to innovation, ways to increase innovation, and how it is reflected in their work. Between talks and panels, attendees were given time to network and work in groups together, focusing on how to drive innovation in engineering forward and include more women in the process.

Source: Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum.
From left to right starting from the top: Stephanie Willerth, Jill Green, Amanda Kalhous, Elizabeth Canon, Elizabeth Croft, Catherine Harwood, Genanne Beck, Monique Frize, Valerie Orsat, Izabela Witkowska, Margaret Kuzyk, Claire Deschenes, Jennifer Smith, Ying Zheng, Goldie Nejat, Denise Pothier, Colleen Legzdins, Jeanette Southwood, Catherine Mulligan, and Carolyn Ren. Courtesy of Women of Innovation.

Parallel to the event, CIM/ICM published Women of Innovation: The Impact of Leading Engineers in Canada, authored by Drs. Wells and Millar. This book profiles 20 women in the field of engineering, and they, according to its preface by Dr. Elicia Maine, B.Sc., S.M., PhD., “are extraordinary. They have contributed to our world not only in the fields of environmental engineering and biomedical engineering but also in robotics for space applications and across a broad range of other engineering disciplines. […] Through their candid stories about their educational and life choices and the meaning they have found in their engineering careers, they serve as inspirational role models to girls and women considering a career in engineering.”

Dr. Maine notes in her preface that some of the greatest challenges facing humanity currently are “access to clean water, fresh air, and food; limiting climate change; and curing diseases. These are complex problems, requiring creative, collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches. Technological innovation will be crucial to solving those problems.” But girls, although they score as high as boys in primary and high school math and science assessments, are “less likely to study STEM subjects in university and – even after graduating – are less likely to enter and prosper in STEM careers.”

Source: Women of Innovation

The profiles of the women in “Women of Innovation” will inspire younger generations of girls and women in – or not yet in – STEM. In turn, the event served to “help encourage other young people to consider pursuing a career in engineering,” as stated by Dr. Anne Millar of the University of Waterloo’s Department of Mechatronics and Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Mary Wells, also of the University of Waterloo’s Department of Mechatronics and Mechanical Engineering, hopes some of the knowledge learned by attendees will reduce some barriers for the future of entrepreneurs in Canada.

WWEST is pleased that the response to the symposium was positive, and is excited to be a part of an event that inspired so many women.

For a recap of the symposium, along with commentary by industry professionals and students alike, check out the video below.

“Women of Innovation: The Impact of Leading Engineers in Canada” can be purchased here.
Drs. Millar and Wells have also authored a book entitled “Women of Impact in the Canadian Mining, Metallurgy, and Materials Field,” which can be purchased here.