Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Building on a strong tradition

At the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, nearly a third of all students entering the first-year common program – 32.3% – are female.

[FEAS Orientation]
In the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science's common program, nearly a third of all students in the Class of 2019 are female. (University Communications) 

And while other universities might celebrate this as a goal, in Queen’s Engineering this is seen as a process – continually building on an existing strong tradition.

However, the faculty doesn’t preferentially target female students in its offers, says Associate Dean (Academic) Lynann Clapham. In fact the percentage of female applicants to the program is virtually identical to the percentage of overall admissions. There is no bias favouring anyone, she says.

Instead, students are drawn by the faculty’s reputation of excellence, and strong track record of being a welcoming and supportive place to study.

“If you look back, traditionally Queen’s Engineering has, at least for the past 12-15 years, has had a higher proportion of women applying than other major engineering programs across the country,” Dr. Clapham says. “It is part of the Queen’s Engineering 10 point Student Success Model, which we highlight during recruiting. I think that tends, in addition to our strong academic reputation, to promote women coming here – they know that this is a great place for women engineers to grow and flourish. It’s kind of success breeds success to a certain extent.”

It also helps that many of the volunteers for recruiting fairs are female students who can be seen as role models for high school girls looking to pursue an education in engineering. 

“Our female students tend to volunteer more frequently than the guys do, and they are keen and they’re enthusiastic,” she says. “People see that and say ‘Wow, I’m really impressed by the women who are in Queen’s Engineering.’ We also have a huge diversity within our female engineering population, so high school girls see a reflection of themselves, and think ‘Hey – I could do engineering too.’”     

That diversity is key not only for engineering but also the profession, adds Dean Kimberly Woodhouse. 

“It’s important to the profession to have a diversity of thought and ideas and part of that diversity comes through gender diversity,” she says. 

Another reason there are more young women turning to engineering is that there is a growing realization that engineering is a rewarding profession where one can make a difference. 

“It’s a phenomenal profession for women and women make outstanding engineers. For me personally, it’s a wonderful career. I’ve been in industry, I’ve been in academia, I am engineer and I love it,” Dean Woodhouse says, adding that there still remains room for growth. “I’d like to see better gender representation because I think there are a lot of women who don’t realize what a great profession engineering is. That’s the story we need to tell, but you have to make the environment welcoming as well.”

Queen’s has long offered a welcoming environment, says Dr. Clapham, where the focus is on “create, collaborate and communicate.” Engineering students at Queen’s are encouraged to work together rather than compete against each other.

That appeals to many students, including  Julie Tseng (Sc’16), the president of the Queen’s Engineering Society, who says she was naturally drawn to engineering by her own inquisitiveness about how things work, why processes are done a certain way and whether or not they can be done more efficiently.

“Engineers often get the opportunity to ask and answer these three questions in the problems they encounter, and that is what drew me to the profession,” she says. “The engineering student experience at Queen’s goes one important step further than teaching students how to ask the right questions and design the right answers. It encourages collaboration between students through a strong sense of community, spirit, and tradition.” 

Ms. Tseng also points out that the engineering program offers a series of courses – the Engineering Design and Practice Sequence – that aims to teach and exercise fundamental practical engineering skills. She sees that as a core strength of Queen’s Engineering.

“This series, nicknamed the ‘design spine,’ follows students from first year to graduation and reinforces that communicating an idea is just as important as coming up with it,” she explains. “As a result, the program excels at helping students strike a balance between technical skills and professional skills – creating well-rounded students.”