For decades, mechanical engineering technology has been something of a male-dominated field. But with more and more women now entering the field, enrolment at Red River is reflective of the changing times.
“What’s really unusual about this is I don’t think we’ve had more than about five female graduates in this program — ever,” says Kathy Davis, Technical Communication instructor and co-op coordinator for RRC’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program.
“And now we have nine women enrolled between first and third year. And they’re all doing well, despite the fact that they’re in a tough program, and despite the fact one of them has a very young daughter, another is fresh out of high school, one has English as a second language issues, and another is working full time. How they’re doing it, I don’t know!”
While she’s careful to point out that many of the program’s male students face similar pressures, Davis says it’s great to see more young women currently enrolled, since it suggests a reversal of a decades-old trend in which women have avoided the field in favour of civil or electrical engineering technology.
“I have no idea why … maybe there are misconceptions about the nature of the work,” she says. “But there’s good money to be made here, and I know of employers who are open to hiring women, so it’s really important for us to try to boost the numbers.”
For their part, the young women in question don’t see themselves any differently than their male classmates, and tend to downplay their status as trailblazers.
“I certainly didn’t know I’d be coming into a program with not a lot of women,” says third-year student Marielaine Palileo. “But the course has been fine — I’ve just kind of blended in like everyone else. We’re all here to learn, and we all get treated that way, so I didn’t feel out of place at all.”
Graciela Manaois, who’s already spent years working as a production engineer for StandardAero, enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering Technology program as a means of upgrading her skill set.
“It’s a very good program — much more of a practical approach than theoretical,” says Manaois, who already has her Chemical Engineering credentials. “It’s very applicable for me, because whatever I’ve learned, I can use right away at work.”
Like her classmates, Manaois encourages other women to consider a career in Mechanical Engineering Technology, especially if they have a strong background in math and physics.
“As long as they have the mechanical inclination, they should go for it,” she says. “They’ll never know their limits until they try.”
Click here for more information on RRC’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program.