ALGONQUIN COLLEGE REMOVING BARRIERS FOR FEMALE STUDENTS
When Algonquin College embarked on a pilot project three years ago to increase female graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs, it marked another step forward in removing barriers for women.
The resulting We Saved You a Seat program actively recruits women in STEM programs at Algonquin. Up to 30 per cent of available space in the College’s Electrical Engineering Technician, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technician, Computer Systems Technician, and Powerline Technician programs are now set aside for female students.
With funding support from Scotiabank, including the Scotiabank Women in Tech Award, We Saved you a Seat has now admitted more than 80 students, and has seen a 75 per cent increase in female enrolment in the Computer Systems Technician (CST) program alone.
Ndona R. Wansaula, a recent CST graduate who received financial support through We Saved You a Seat, appreciates how important it is to support women in STEM academic and career pursuits.
“There were many men in my program, and it was important to me to prove that I could do this too. We need more women in these roles, to bring their perspectives and points of view to problem solving,” said Wansaula.
Chloe Pearson, a Mechanical Engineering Technology graduate from Algonquin who enrolled through We Saved You a Seat, has now entered the workforce and is paying her experience forward.
“There are opportunities within engineering or STEM that aren’t as masculine as you might think they are. But by the same token, if something is super-masculine and you want to put your hard hat on and your steel-toed boots – that kind of thing – it’s a lot of fun. I love the days I get to go down in a submarine. It’s a lot of fun to go down and take a look at the progress we’ve made,” said Pearson, a Junior
Systems Integration Technologist at Babcock Canada, who also sits on the company’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Building on the success of We Saved You a Seat, Algonquin recently announced that the Leacross Foundation has donated $60,000 to support women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs at the College. Algonquin President and CEO, Claude Brulé, welcomed the Leacross support and said having the perspective of strong women leaders at the College helps ensure issues around equality are top of mind in decision-making.
“When we look across the current landscape with the added lens of the pandemic, it is clear that there are both unresolved and new challenges to building equality for women in the workplace, the classroom and in leadership roles,” said Brulé. “We Saved You a Seat is one example where the College is enhancing a learning environment that encourages, supports and builds more space for women learners, and fosters their leadership aspirations.”
Alongside We Saved You a Seat, Algonquin has also commenced a Leadership Development for Women initiative, including an in-development Future Leaders Award that will recognize and reward a female student who has shown outstanding leadership within her academic studies and/or community.