Friday, July 31, 2009

Look no further! Here are the statistics on the number of females in engineering

Networking, I owe you one

I was recently approached by the Vice President of Development at the Engineering Students Societies' Council of Ontario (ESSCO) for information concerning the number of female engineering graduates in Ontario this year. This is not the first time I've been asked this kind of question, so I decided to look for the statistics myself. It's amazing how easy it was! All I did was use my WISE network! First, I remembered a presenter at NCWIE who had a bunch of graphs and statistics on her slides, so I found her and contacted her. She replied within a day suggesting that I contact Engineers Canada for more recent data. I did so, and I got a response, again within a day, with all the most recent data. Wow, it only took me two days. Networks are awesome!

What's available online

Engineers Canada has been collecting data concerning engineering degrees for many years now. Their most recent report is called Canadian Engineers for Tomorrow: Trends in Engineering Enrolment and Degrees Awarded 2001 to 2005 (they'll update it within a few months). Looking at this data, I noticed that 1029 out of 4678 (22%) undergraduate degrees were awarded to females in Ontario in 2005. No other province seems to have surpassed this amount. Quebec had about half as many. By the way, more stats are available from ONWIE here.

Ontario is rockin'

Has anything changed until now? Looking at the data for all the provinces in Canada, Ontario is rocking it. From 2001 to 2008, there has been an increase in the TOTAL number of undergraduate degrees awarded in Ontario from 3466 to 5288. In comparison, Quebec's numbers increased only slightly from 2467 in 2001 to 2928 in 2008. In terms of females, the numbers have not changed much anywhere except in Ontario. Numbers increased from 733 out of 3644 in 2001 (20%) to a maximum of 1094 out of 5353 (20%) in 2007, and then 1012 out of 5288 (19%) in 2008. Although it is interesting that the percentage of females to males has not changed much in Ontario.

Computer engineering is losing estrogen

I also compared the number of undergraduate degrees awarded to females in Ontario by discipline for 2005 and 2008. There were some increases and some decreases. I was surprised to see that the number of females in computer engineering had the largest decrease: from 128 in 2005 to 46 in 2008. Electrical and industrial/manufacturing also decreased. On the other hand, the largest increase was in chemical engineering from 157 to 221. Civil, mechanical, and materials also increased.

Embracing graduate studies

One last thing. I'm a graduate student myself, so I looked into the numbers. It turns out that in 2005, 700 out of 2737 (25%) master's and 415 out of 2149 (19%) doctoral degrees were awarded to females. In 2008 all the numbers decreased significantly: 386 out of 1556 (25%) master's and 80 out of 402 (20%) doctoral degrees. But notice this: the percentage of women has NOT changed very much. Yesss!


Jennifer said...

I am not surprised to see (again) a decrease noted in EE and CE fields.

Psychologically women are typically drawn to fields where there is a sense of purpose. I believe it is our innate nurturing quality. Civil engineers make buildings aka shelters or other forms of structures (bridges, tunnels, etc.) to help humanity. Chemical and Environmental engineers again get a first hand experience to being useful.

What about EEs and CEs? Many of us work to build components of systems and have no idea of the final product or even close to the final product. It can be very disheartening after a while.

There needs to be better linkages between the EE and CE fields to areas helping humanity. I am a member of IEEE because I see where we matter in those areas even if I did not get a sense of purpose until I got into the field of Medical Devices.

Women organisations need to help create those linkages for the next generation who is pondering on where to invest their brains and skills.