WSP Canada celebrates International Women in Engineering Day

We asked our female engineers to reflect on their work and their careers for International Women in Engineering Day.

We asked some of our female engineers what being an engineer means to them, and what advice they would give to female engineers starting out their careers.

Why is being an engineer important to you?

Aleshia Perry, Manager Rail & Transit West

What advice would you give to a female engineer starting out in their career?

Karen Sagar P.Eng., Vice President Geotechnical, Canada

My advice would be to be yourself. I didn’t work with another female engineer or geoscientist for the first nine years of my career, and like so many other women, I tried to assimilate into the existing work culture, trying to fit in and be “one of the boys.” Let’s move the conversation away from changing women to changing workplace culture, and allow women to be themselves, to dress and behave in a way that is natural to you. Additionally, I would say that women need to find and embrace their voices. Stop asking permission to speak; make yourself heard – if we’re not speaking up, we’re not driving change, for ourselves, for our colleagues and friends, and for our daughters.

Why is being an engineer important to you?

Andrea Counsel, P.Eng. Senior Project Manager, Linear Infrastructure

A career in engineering allows me to combine my innate passion for problem solving, design and communication, with a strong desire to contribute positively to society. In my early years, I was guided towards the STEM field by mentors who saw my potential for excelling in the field of engineering. At the same time, I was strongly driven by social justice and equity issues locally and globally. After a number of experiences working and volunteering inside and outside of Canada, the importance of pursuing my passion for a career in engineering became clear. This path would allow me to apply my technical skills while participating in important municipal engineering projects; specifically, in the provision of clean, reliable drinking water and in wastewater management.

I also feel strongly about the importance for women to enter the STEM fields, to follow their passions unreservedly and to contribute to positive change. Although engineering was once a field where women were somewhat of a rarity, I feel those barriers of the past are diminishing, and that opportunities are boundless. As a female engineer, I hope to encourage and inspire other women to leap over any roadblocks and to realize their potential.

Why is being an engineer important to me?

Janelle Lamrock, Engineer-in-Training

Engineering is important to me because I want to feel like I am making the world a better place at the end of every day – I like to work on projects that have a positive impact on the environment, but also projects that have a positive social impact on a community. I also try to emulate this in my everyday life through the choices I make. I am still in the early stages of my career, but hopefully some day I can be in a position where I can make decisions on bigger projects that will have significant positive impacts on the environment and not only in my community, but in other communities as well. I also like the challenge that engineering provides: some careers can leave you doing the same thing day in day out, but it was always important to me to do something that challenged me and made for each day to be unique.

What advice would I give others that are starting out as professional engineers?

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want – in terms of projects you would like to be involved with, but especially in terms of salary. Most people in the industry will want to support you in your goals, but if they can get the same amount of amazing work at a lower cost, they will keep you at the same level. You will need to be the one to push and speak for yourself. It will be very helpful if you can find someone in your office/company that you can trust and are comfortable talking about these things with - this will make the difficult and awkward salary conversations much easier!

Why is being an engineer important to you?

Freesia Waxman, M.A.Sc., P.Eng., QPESA

Being an Engineer is important to me because I get to be a positive role model for young women. If you enjoy science or engineering you SHOULD consider a technical career.

I love my job because while there is plenty of structure, the field is also dynamic and constantly evolving as technologies advance and regulations keep pace. There is always something new to learn and I strive to become an expert in my field.

Being an engineer also instills in me a sense of confidence, pride, and humility.

  • Confidence that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to.
  • Pride in my ability and my work that benefits society.
  • And humility. Humility that I have been entrusted with the responsibility to hold public safety as paramount in all that I do.

I feel very fortunate to wear this ring.

Why is being an engineer important to you?

Jenna McVitty, Project Manager

I come from a family focused in the field of arts and therefore engineering did not come as a natural life selection.  However, I have found the organized and methodical practice of engineering to be very satisfying and fitting to my somewhat overly particular personality.  It is gratifying to see a project complete and the concrete results of my work.  I like to think that at the end of my career the work we do will have had a positive impact on the community.  My advice to young women in engineering new to the field is to focus on your strengths and learn to employ them in your work to your advantage.  Communication skills can go a long way.  In terms of networking, try and find a women’s engineering group to participate in within your community.  I have found the traditional networking groups such as the construction associations or some of the PEO events to be a bit intimidating as a young woman in a room predominantly male.  However, the “Women in engineering” association in Windsor, and I’m sure similar organizations across the country, can provide an opportunity to network with other female engineers in a more comfortable setting.

Why is being an engineer important to you?

Ved Proag, Municipal Infrastructure

Engineering is creative and requires tremendous imagination. The greatest inventors of the past were creative and intelligent problem solvers. To me this definitely represents engineering today and the reason why I joined the profession! Engineers are modern day inventors. Great creations are born from different perspectives and diversity. I strongly believe that encouraging and retaining more women in the industry is important to enhance this diversity.