With the end of 2019 we greet 2020 with renewed energy and enthusiasm. SWE Toronto has many exciting events planned for the upcoming year as well as plentiful opportunities to get involved in our committees as well as on our board.
2019 has been a busy and fruitful year for our affiliate. We rang in the new year with a newly formed board and in June, had our first ever election and AGM (Annual General Meeting - open to all SWE Toronto members and volunteers). By the end of 2019 we had a full 13-member board ready to serve the Toronto SWE community.
Returning this year you will see our National Engineering Month (NEM) event which will take place in March and of course our International Women in Engineering Day event (INWED) which will take place in June.
We will also continue to host the events that we do best, which include our monthly Coffee Club held last Saturday of each month at Coffee Creeds Bar on Dupont and our SWE Speaks events held monthly, typically mid-month. We will also aim to host more SWE Social events to help us have a bit more fun in 2020!
Being almost halfway through the year of my term as president I can say with confidence that SWE Toronto is better than ever. We are the most active Global Affiliate in the world and it brings me great joy to see where we are today compared to where we were when we first started. Now we have a full 13-member board, 20+ volunteers, dozens of events under our belt, and a set of bylaws. We have received recognition from SWE headquarters in Chicago who helped us to achieve Not-fot-Profit (NFP) status February this year. We have signed a partnership with OSPE (Ontario Society of Professional Engineers). And we have been called to the table for 30 by 30 discussions by PEO who recognizes our importance and presence in the Toronto community.
I look forward to meeting more of our SWE Toronto community in the rest of the 2019-2020 active SWE Toronto year and help assemble the SWE Toronto 2020-2021 board of directors. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions about being active on the board. You can reach me at president_Toronto@swe.org
I wish that I had known the powerful, the embedded, intricate weaving of stereotypes into the fabric of the world of technology. It is very hard for women professionals to understand these barriers because they are so invisible and so illogical. Stereotypes affect every area of life; they provide short cuts to enable everyday life to function. Life would be impossible if we had to rationally assess every situation we confronted.
I have come to believe that there is no industry, especially in Canada and the United States, because of the centuries of stereotypes about the suitable roles of men and women, more designed (unintentionally) for women to fail in than technology.
Understand that even when organizations, and many of your male colleagues, want you to succeed, gender based stereotypes work against those efforts because they are invisible. For example, the way meetings have always been conducted are embedded with gender preference; or the humour among men that has traditionally made work life bearable can be poison to women.
The most powerful stereotype, which has been honed in Canada and the United States, is that success in technology requires logic, objectivity and aggression; and these are qualities subconsciously thought to be possessed only by men. Women, regardless of whether they have a professional degree or not, according to society, do not possess these qualities. This means that there is an unconscious belief that you cannot be trusted to be logical when the really big problems occur; that your views are not objective because your tone of speech and the inflection of your words, all sound very “emotional”; and if you are aggressive, you will be labelled as “unfeminine” or worse.
However, when you understand that the discomfort you feel or the conflicts you experience are probably not a result of any inability but rather the barriers to inclusion that stereotypes create, you can begin to tackle those barriers: become knowledgeable about these barriers; read the books written by women who have gone before you; be engaged in women’s professional support networks; find mentors and sponsors; and commit to navigating the obstacles.
Your presence in technology is changing the gender order; it represents a desire for equity, even if reality is somewhat different. I often asked myself, and many professional women now ask me “why do I have to put up with this?” or “why me?” when the challenges seem overwhelming. After all this isn’t what you learned in school.
When you feel like giving up, remember your presence in technology does have power, like a butterfly wing, that seems so small, even invisible; but which can affect the weather currents, that then change the agricultural growing season which then can affect the economy. A butterfly wing can change everything.
On this National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, SWE TO honours the memory of the 14 female engineering students who were murdered at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal on December 6th, 1989 by an act of gender-based violence. We also commemorate the missing and murdered Aboriginal women, the trans-women and each and every woman in Ontario and across the world whose lives have been (and are still being) harmed or lost to gender-based violence. Each and everyone of us have the opportunity and the responsibility to stand up against misogyny, sexism, and hate.. It is time to create and foster the culture of respect. It is time to take action.