When Cecilia Liu decided to pursue a career in engineering, she says she didn’t really think about the fact it’s a traditionally male-dominated field.
March 8 is International Women’s Day and, according to Engineers Canada, while women make up more than half of the population of Canada they are significantly under-represented in engineering. Less than 13 per cent of practising license engineers in Canada are women.
That number, however, is on the rise. Liu, a fourth-year engineering student at the University of B.C., said that her class is about 25 per cent women, which is higher than the national average. Across Canada, women account for about 20 per cent of total enrolment in accredited undergraduate engineering programs.
“It’s really nice to go to work with other women that are in the program, we try to support each other,” she said.
Liu said she first became interested in engineering in high school, and didn’t give it a second thought when she decided to pursue it as a career.
“I didn’t really think about it… it actually didn’t occur to me at the time that it was such a male-dominated field,” she said.
This year Liu is co-captain at UBC Supermilage, leading a team of 80 engineering students working to design and build fuel efficient gasoline and electric powered vehicles for the annual Shell Eco-Marathon Americas competition April 3 to 6 in Sonoma, California.
Liu said the team is really trying to push how far a vehicle can go on a tank of gas. And for the first time this year, UBC Supermilage is entering the contest with a battery electric car.
This is the 11th year the UBC team has entered the competition and this time around Supermilage will have entries in two categories — Prototype and UrbanConcept.
The Prototype category challenges teams to enter futuristic-looking, streamlined vehicles designed to reduce friction and maximize efficiency, while the UrbanConcept category challenges teams to design vehicles that are both energy-efficient and roadworthy.
Liu said she has never felt like she has been treated any differently than her male counterparts in the program, and encourages young women considering going into the field to follow their dreams.
“I think it’s just important to stick with what you want to do and what you’re interested in and to try not to let what other people say affect you,” she said. “It’s great if you have parents or teachers or friends that are supportive of your interests… but if you believe in yourself you don’t have to worry as much about what people are saying. Pursue your passion.”