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Engineering school aims to reach 50:50 gender goal


Toronto-based Lassonde School of Engineering at York University has launched a new $1.5-million challenge to become the first engineering school in Canada to reach a 50:50 gender balance.

“Achieving a 50:50 gender balance should be a necessity for every engineering school. It is the single most significant change we can make to improve engineering education in Canada,” says Janusz Kozinski, founding Dean of the Lassonde School of Engineering, as he unveiled the Lassonde 50:50 Challenge.

“If we can get more women involved in designing and building the foundations of our lives – our cities, our health, our infrastructure – we will all benefit. Engineering can be and should be 50:50,” he added.

The announcement takes place ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8 and during National Engineering Month, which celebrates Canada’s achievements in engineering.

The honorary co-chairs of the Lassonde 50:50 Challenge will be Silicon Valley entrepreneur and philanthropist Sandra Bergeron and Katty Kay, journalist and co-author of The Confidence Code and Womenomics. Both are inspirational leaders who will be actively involved providing advice in developing the strategy for the Lassonde 50:50 Challenge.

“Lassonde 50:50 is the kind of initiative we need to give more women the inspiration to become the leaders who will shape future technology,” said Bergeron.

The Lassonde 50:50 Challenge has been made possible with $1-million of funding from Pierre Lassonde. This is part of the $25-million he donated to establish the Lassonde School of Engineering at York University in 2011.

“We live in a world where engineers are wielding greater power and influence over our lives than ever before. We need more women studying engineering, teaching engineering and practicing engineering. Now is the time to act and for Canada to take the lead,” said Pierre Lassonde, founding donor of the Lassonde School of Engineering.

Among the initiatives supported by the new investment will be the School’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) chapter, co-founded by Lassonde students Manjeet Kaur and Rahma Shakir.

“Engineering schools need more women. It’s that simple. We are absolutely determined to make sure more female high school students know that engineering is the right path for them and to give them every support they need to be successful,” said Kaur.

Alongside this new funding, the Lassonde School of Engineering will create a brand new position of Assistant Dean–Inclusivity and Diversity – who will lead the School’s commitment to the Lassonde 50:50 Challenge. The School will also assemble a team of strategic advisers made up of alumni, industry figures, students and academics to provide new perspectives on how to reach 50:50.

“The causes for the underrepresentation of women in engineering are multiple, complex, and call for a comprehensive approach to tackle the problem,” said Kozinski.

“In addition to our new Assistant Dean at Lassonde, we will be working closely with independent experts from across many fields to help identify how we need to change, as well as seeking advice from engineering schools in Canada and elsewhere which have made progress on addressing this challenge,” he added.

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