This past October 10th, several University of Ottawa and other Ontario school delegates, as well as myself, had the opportunity to attend the 16th Annual Claudette Mackay-Lassonde Fall Forum, presented by OSPE’s Women in Engineering Advocacy Champions Task Force (WE ACT). It was a day-long conference aimed at tackling the lens in which female engineers live each day. We were able to attend panels, plenary sessions, as well as having plenty of time to network with engineers from various backgrounds as well as speak with employers throughout the National Capital Region.
The day began with a keynote speech by Lisa MacLeod, MPP Nepean, Minister of Community and Social Services and Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues and Immigration. She provided an inspiring debut for the conference and set a wonderful tone for the rest of the day by reminding everyone that the goal is not to always surpass everyone or be the best at everything, but mentoring the people around you and aiming to widen the path to success.
I then attended the panel : “WE Move: Women in Transportation and Infrastructure”. Conversations on this panel ranged from discussing the stigma that comes from diversity hiring (and following quotas), to projects that the panel speakers have been involved in, how they decided to enter the transportation/engineering sector given the large male presence. Coming from a military family, I was extremely interested to hear what the speaker’s takes were on quotas and how they can hinder confidence in minority group applicants and harbor resent from their coworkers. One of the important takeaways from this panel was the importance of having a support group (ex: having a male coworker explicitly point out a female coworkers accomplishment, having female mentors, etc.) to achieve your goals and get the respect and praise you deserve for your success.
The second panel I attended was the WE Lead: Breaking Barriers for Women in Politics and Leadership. As a female engineering student who actively participates in student politics, this was a panel that was particularly interesting to me. The speakers highlighted the importance of building a network of mentors and business mentors, and doing it with the right intentions. They also spoke of confidence in the workplace and most importantly, yourself and how having these skills can bring many opportunities for the future. Finally, we had an incredible final keynote speaker, Colonel R. Hulan who gave an empowering speech that wrapped up the whole day and left delegates feeling inspired and ready to take action.
Overall, the 16th Annual Claudette Mackay-Lassonde Fall Forum was incredibly informative and a great opportunity to network with other leaders and trailblazers in the engineering community. The mix of panels and speakers was diverse in topics and opinions and it is clear to me that everyone was able to be inspired and take away some valuable lessons and knowledge. #ItsTimeWEACT is a statement of truth and an important call to action, and it is everyone’s responsibility to take what they have learned and get the ball rolling in a more tangible way. We have now had the discussions, it is now time for us to DO something about it.