Dean, Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence and Perth Campus, Algonquin College
Algonquin College encourages women to seek opportunities in STEM by reserving classroom seats in key programs.
At Algonquin College (AC), improving opportunities for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) starts with making physical space.
In 2018, the School of Advanced Technology and the Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence launched the We Saved You a Seat (WSYAS) initiative as a pilot program to address the underrepresentation of women in STEM and to meet the projected skills shortage in the industry. The initiative reserves 30 per cent of classroom seats for women across seven programs. The idea behind WSYAS is to improve visibility, foster a diverse community, improve learning outcomes for all students, and encourage women to dream bigger.
The seven programs of the WSYAS initiative include Computer Systems Technician, Computer Systems Technician – Networking, Electrical Engineering Technician, Electromechanical Engineering Technician, Mechanical Engineering Technology, Powerline Technician, and Construction Engineering Technician — most of which offer co-op and non-co-op options.
Bringing STEM awareness and opportunities to women
Being unaware of career opportunities in STEM is one of the primary reasons women are underrepresented in the field. Nicole Lemieux is a graduate of the Electrical Engineering Technician program at AC and now works as an Electrical Technologist. She shares that she’s fulfilled in her role because she enjoys seeing projects come to life and that the compensation and work-life balance are sustainable. Lemieux says, “Without the WSYAS initiative, I wouldn’t have encountered and chosen this career path.”
The benefits of more diverse and inclusive classes spill into the offices, workshops, and worksites where our students — whatever their gender — employ their skills and talents.Christopher Hahn
Systemically supporting women’s STEM education
AC recognizes that visibility is only one puzzle piece in removing the barriers women face in entering STEM professions. To provide comprehensive support for women, the college also offers financial aid from various donors to qualifying applications through scholarships, bursaries, and awards. Additionally, mentorship opportunities allow students to connect with women in the industry. One is a coffee break run by Kathryn Reilander, Faculty and Coordinator of Electrical Engineering Technology at Algonquin College.
A safe space for challenging the status quo
At AC, diversity means more than quotas. It’s championing systemic change that’s both conscious and subliminal. Christopher Hahn, Dean of Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence, shares that academia is the ideal place to kickstart systemic change as colleges are supposed to be forward-thinking and knowledgeable about anticipating the challenges and needs of the future. It should always be a safe environment to engage in these topics.
Through industry connections, AC identifies the areas where skills are needed and formulates solutions that break down the entry barriers for women by establishing initiatives like WSYAS and adjusting academic policies to take the meaning of representation beyond visibility.
Choosing AC for STEM education
WSYAS is just the beginning of AC’s mission to enable prospective students to dream big! The college recognizes that brilliance is not limited to gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, or religion and is dedicated to investing in opportunities that reduce the barriers to post-secondary education.