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Women in Engineering Society Honoured for Remarkable Year
It’s been a big year for women in engineering, with more and more women leaving their mark on the profession.
Within Dalhousie’s Faculty of Engineering, what Sara Evely once described as a “girls club”, has now become one of the most active, successful, and influential societies on Sexton Campus.
For over a decade, the Women in Engineering (WIE) Society has been supporting female students in their academic and professional success, while also encouraging young girls with an aptitude for math and science to consider careers in engineering.
Currently led by Evely, a senior-year civil engineering student, the group has worked diligently to expand visibility on campus while also increasing the range of services and events offered throughout the year. Their hard work and dedication have not only resulted in a soaring number of society members, but also with the group receiving their first Dalhousie University IMPACT Award in the category of “Most Impactful Social or Environmental Justice Society”.
The Dalhousie IMPACT Awards ceremony is an annual event hosted by the Dalhousie Student Union in collaboration with Dalhousie University. The awards recognize the outstanding individuals and student groups that impact our community. While the award ceremony was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 crisis, students and societies across campus were still honoured for their achievements.
“The society’s executive team has worked hard and made sacrifices to ensure that we created a lasting impression on Sexton campus and on the engineering culture, so it feels incredibly rewarding to be recognized by the university,” says Evely. “We went into the Summer 2019 semester knowing we wanted to turn the society into a powerful and professional force on campus and this IMPACT award is proof that we did exactly that.”
Inspiring Sexton Campus
Evely says she remembers attending her first WIE meeting in 2014. Although there were only a handful of society members, Evely knew it was where she needed to be to gain the social support she required to feel more at home in her male-dominated program.
“When I learned about the society, I immediately identified with their mission. I told my family that I was going to be President of the society one day,” she says. “I’m going to do what I can to help other female engineers on campus feel as though they belong too.”
Last September, she did just that. Taking over as President, she and her enthusiastic team were able to attract over 100 female engineering students to their first society meeting: an all-time high.
Over the past year, the society has shifted their approach to student engagement by creating a strong peer support system on campus. Hosting regular events to allow students to meet one another, they’ve also served as a strong voice for all female engineering students.
“It’s important to create a culture of tolerance and empowerment in fields where we really need to be investing in society’s best and brightest. This means making sure no one gets overlooked because of an outdated perception of what a great engineer looks like,” she says. “Through the strengthening of groups such as ours, we’re increasing the attractiveness of the field to future talent and creating a space of belonging and support. Dalhousie already has an incredibly proactive, diverse, and accepting culture, but student groups such as ours help to bridge the gap between faculty and students and act as a voice for an unrepresented group.”
The society has also successfully developed a series of workshops and career development initiatives focused on providing female students with the opportunity to gain more hands-on technical experience outside of the classroom and network with professional female engineers.
While Evely says her team is proud of the influence they’ve had on other women, one of their greatest accomplishments was their participation in “Go Eng Go,” an outreach event that brought in 115 local female youths to experience engineering on Sexton campus. The event was the group’s largest outreach initiative to date. Their other great accomplishment: their participation in the 30th anniversary memorial for the victims of the 1989 Montreal Massacre.
While the society’s activities have been put on hold due to COVID-19 pandemic, Evely says winning their first Impact Award has strengthened their determination in supporting and encouraging one another while also elevating the engineering profession in the process.
“As demand increases for critical thinkers, problem solvers, and innovators, we must ensure that we are investing in our best and brightest,” she says. “Not letting the outdated perception of an engineer become our mold and limit us. Instead we must recognize the strength and creativity that a diverse engineering profession can offer.”
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