OSPE - The Voice - December 2017 - 38

student spotlight

Student Opinion Piece:

Diversity in

time to time? When you focus the conversation
anessa Raponi is an undergraduate
on women only, you're excluding a lot of other
student of Materials Engineering and
groups who need attention.
Management at McMaster University and
Furthermore, when we still have workplaces
has dedicated her undergraduate career to
that are unequipped to handle a heterogenous
thoroughly exploring and understanding
group of people adequately - it sends out the
the profession. She's completed 28
message that "our profession is unwilling to
undergraduate months of co-op, but her
change." It's also been understood that the
favourite and most impactful experience
gender binary of "man" and "woman" isn't that
thus far has been creating EngiQueers
black and white, so by endlessly enforcing this,
Canada, a national LGBTQ+ engineering
Vanessa Raponi
we're sending out the wrong message. Keeping
student organization. Although
up with the times is critical to the future success of the profession.
EngiQueers initially started at McMaster, Vanessa's fight for
We must acknowledge that diversity is so much more than just
true diversity and inclusion within the profession has taken on
talking about women in engineering. We're always focusing on
a national focus, with schools all over the country getting on
innovation from a technical lens, so why can't we do the same
board. In this piece, Vanessa shares some of her thoughts on four
for our diversity and inclusion practices?
hot-button topics about diversity within engineering.

sEtBacks, IMpRovEMENts, aND Goals

"woMEN IN ENGINEERING"- Not such a sIMplE IssuE

thE REspoNsIBIlItY of oRGaNIzatIoNs lIkE ospE

I'm a woman who is queer, mixed race, and who grew up on
the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. I'm also a survivor of
childhood sexual abuse, whose family has been closely impacted
by homelessness and addiction, and a person who suffers from
severe anxiety. And yet, in my day to day life, I'm expected to
excel alongside my colleagues, meet deadlines, participate in
meetings, be a leader, be professional - be the best engineer I
can be. For me, I navigate life with the expectation of always
going above and beyond, as mediocrity is not a word I want
associated with my work. To try and do that with the weight
of my life experiences is unequivocally different than for those
who have not experienced what I have gone through. And this
is fundamentally why acknowledging diversity is critical. The
key to unlocking the higher potential of our profession lies in
supporting and advocating for those who have experienced
unique challenges.
My conflict with the "Women in Engineering" focus that the
profession has undertaken for the past 30+ years is that it is no
longer enough. Yes, the number of women in engineering is
100% still an issue, but to say statements such as "we need to
start with women before we delve into anything else," sends out
an exclusionary message to other forms of diversity. Of course,
women deserve to be treated equally and to be part of every step
of the ladder, but have we had the same level of acknowledgement
for our female queer colleagues? Our female refugee colleagues?
Our female colleagues who need to take a mental health day from


December 2017

I think the biggest set-back right now is a lack of education.
Many of our diversity issues stem from simple ignorance on
these topics. Although university spaces nationwide are starting
to embrace inclusivity, we still need those who hold positions of
influence, those in management and leadership roles within the
workplace to start actually learning, understanding, and living
this inclusive state-of-mind. That could look like more training
sessions, more events and more consultations with experts. The
sky really is the limit.
And it's not just about talking the talk. It's also about
putting your money where your mouth is. I so often read
about a company's "commitment to diversity"- but after some
investigation I often find that there is very little to back that up.
You need to have a bias towards real action when it comes to this
topic. It is not only critical for every company to embrace, but
also to invest in the world we live in today.
I hope and expect an advocacy organization like OSPE to be
on the frontlines and leading a movement like this. Running
campaigns, putting positive pressure on companies, highlighting
success and recognizing the innovators of this movement are
great steps. Our profession will only benefit from a greater focus
on diversity in a broad sense. This is especially true in Canada, as
diversity is one of our most prevalent and unique realities. Every
single Canadian has such a different story - and they should all
be embraced with open arms by our profession. That is my hope.
One that I believe can someday become a reality.


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of OSPE - The Voice - December 2017

Table of Contents
Table of Contents
OSPE - The Voice - December 2017 - Cover1
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OSPE - The Voice - December 2017 - Table of Contents
OSPE - The Voice - December 2017 - 4
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OSPE - The Voice - December 2017 - Cover3
OSPE - The Voice - December 2017 - Cover4