National Engineering Month 2024 – Women in Engineering

Despite comprising more than half of Canada's overall population, women are significantly underrepresented in the engineering profession. Recent initiatives aimed at encouraging more young women to enter engineering and associated STEM fields have been implemented, but men continue to vastly outnumber women in this industry. One of the most concerning issues is the lack of current data, as Engineering Canada only reports every ten years, leaving much of the data nine years out of date and predating the pandemic. Has Canada made progress? The answer remains uncertain until we receive the next set of data next year.

Traditional Imbalance in Engineering Professions

According to an article by Harvard Business Review, women make up 20% of engineering graduates, but nearly 40% of women who earn their degrees either quit or never enter the profession. Research indicates that men and women initially enter the field for similar reasons, but over time, several factors discourage women from continuing engineering as a career choice. These include being treated in gender-stereotypical ways, being assigned routine managerial and secretarial tasks instead of engaging in core engineering work, differential treatment by professors, facing unchallenging projects, sexual harassment, experiencing greater isolation from supportive networks, encountering an environment less open to social responsibility, struggling with imposter syndrome, and facing challenges related to maternity leaves and childcare.

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In Canada, Engineering Canada's 2022 membership report indicated that while the representation of women in engineering increased overall, there were slight fluctuations in the percentages of female-identifying members across different stages of engineering education and licensure. Despite progress, women remain underrepresented in the field compared to their male counterparts. Moreover, despite aggressive efforts to engage girls in STEM, female representation among engineering student members saw a minor decline to 24.3% in 2022, down from 24.9% in 2021.

Impact of Covid-19 on Women in Engineering

The underrepresentation of women in engineering existed before the Covid-19 pandemic, and the crisis has further exacerbated this gender discrepancy. According to the May 2020 Statistics Canada Labour Report, 1.5 million women exited the Canadian labor market over a two-month period due to the health, social, or professional impacts of Covid-19, with engineering being no exception. Speaking on the pandemic's impact specifically on women in the engineering sector, The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) president Heather Doty revealed that while job losses weren't prevalent among women in engineering, hiring freezes, salary cuts, and increased workloads became the new reality. Many women had to transition to remote work to accommodate increased care burdens, and some preferred remote roles even if they were outside their field or didn't pay as well. Under these circumstances, many women faced the dilemma of whether to continue managing job responsibilities amidst pay cuts, leading several to exit the workforce or take career breaks. Moreover, those unable to work remotely often left the professional market prematurely due to lack of support.

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Attraction & Retention - Women in Engineering

Statistics indicate that between 2011 and 2016, there was a 38% increase in STEM-fundamental bachelor's degrees earned by women, yet only 13% of the existing engineering workforce are women. Industry leaders and organizations such as Engineering Canada and The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) are actively pursuing programs aimed at improving women's representation and participation in engineering. For example, Engineering Canada and regulators have been tracking the number of new women engineers since 2014 as part of the 30 by 30 initiative, with the national goal of raising the percentage of women pursuing engineering careers to 30% by 2030, thus driving equal gender representation in this male-dominated sector.

Continuing the momentum, the organization submitted an extensive plan in 2020 to the House of Commons Standing Committee, offering recommendations to the federal government to mitigate the potential impact of Covid-19 on women in engineering professions across Canada.

The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) surveyed the most important factors influencing young women's decisions to pursue engineering careers. These factors include interest in and positive attitudes toward engineering, recognition of the value of engineering as a profession, self-confidence in their skills and knowledge, self-identification as STEM professionals, having a strong support network, drawing strength from personal or cultural experiences and struggles, and feeling a sense of belonging.


Understanding and celebrating the motivations that drive women's ambitions in their engineering careers is the first step to mitigating the gender gap in engineering fields. The participation and equal representation of women in engineering are not only important from a gender equality standpoint but also necessary to expand the potential labor pool while ensuring diversity and inclusion. The field of engineering is the epicenter of innovation. An underrepresented female engineering population means losing out on disruptive ideas, talent, and skills that play an important role in strengthening and advancing Canada's engineering sector.

As Canada's largest engineering firm with 48 years of experience, Agilus understands the engineering sector in Canada. From oil & gas and energy transition in Alberta to mining in the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario, from the potash mines of Saskatchewan to the hydroelectric dams in Newfoundland, our community of over 160,000 PEng., PMP, Agile, SigmaSix, LEAN professionals, and turnaround specialists inform us of their needs and preferences. In fact, over 75% of our engineering contractors are redeployed.

For 48 years, Agilus has served our candidate and employer networks, connecting great job seekers with meaningful employment. We place nearly 10,000 job seekers in roles every year in engineering, technology, professional/office, and light industrial roles. For more information about Agilus, please follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter or check out our current open roles.


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