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Students from Women in Engineering celebrate in the Sears Atrium on the third floor of the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre at Ryerson University.
In 2012, Hydro One supported a consortium of four universities — Ryerson University, University of Waterloo, Western University, and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology — in an ambitious initiative to dramatically increase the enrolment and improve the experience of young women in engineering. Through outreach activities at the elementary, high school, and university levels, a variety of network building opportunities, and financial support, the program has met with remarkable success. Ryerson is pleased to announce that Ontario’s largest electricity transmission and distribution company renewed its support of the Hydro One Women in Engineering (WiE) program earlier this year.
“Hydro One believes that investing in young talent is a critical piece to closing the gender gap in the engineering field, especially in the electrical and mechanical disciplines where there is a substantial opportunity,” says Alice Sahazizian, diversity and inclusion consultant at Hydro One.
“Funding from Hydro One brought together four universities that previously functioned as competitors,” says Nika Zolfaghari, manager, equity, diversity and inclusion in the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science at Ryerson University. “By working together and sharing resources, we have been able to amplify awareness, strengthen our programs and have a measurable impact across the province.”
Since the initiative’s inception, the number of women entering engineering degree programs at the four universities increased by 65 per cent. From 2014 to 2016, the number of women in electrical engineering internships tripled. At Hydro One, the number of applications from women for New Grad positions rose by 256 per cent. To date the partnership has supported close to 19,000 students across all four of the universities.
Melisa Licenji, Electrical Engineering ’18, joined the Women in Engineering student group at Ryerson University in her first year. “I moved to Canada from Albania when I was in grade 10,” she explains. “My brother was studying engineering already and, whenever he’d bring home his coding problems or circuit projects, I’d find it so interesting. Math and science were my strengths, so I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, but I was still a little apprehensive because engineering was seen as a job for men. WiE gave me a network of women engineers, introduced me to women leaders in the field, and helped build my confidence.”
In her second year, Licenji received a Hydro One Women in Engineering Award that came with a four-month internship at the company. “The money, of course, helped a lot,” says Licenji. “Then the opportunity to get your foot in the door and gain real life experience really influences your perspective and trajectory — you get to know if you’re on the right path.”
At the end of her four month internship, Hydro One left the door open for Licenji to return for a longer placement. She embraced the opportunity and returned to the company in her third year for a 16 month co-op.
“Hydro One has identified a problem and is contributing to the solution,” says Licenji. “They are advocating for women in the profession, helping women get into the workforce and having a real impact on our future as engineers,” she adds.
To learn more about how you can support Ryerson and initiatives like Women in Engineering, please visit the Giving to Ryerson page.