A. Enrollment of Women in Engineering at Ryerson
Recent trends in university enrollments in the province of Ontario show that while the female enrollment in engineering programs continues to climb, and over a five year period it has increased from 13% in 1992-93 to 18.5% in 1996-97 school year, enrollment at Ryerson has grown at an even faster rate, increasing from 8% in 1992-93 to 13.7% in 1996-1997 school year. According to the 1998 enrollment data released in December 1998 and shown in Figure 5 and Figure 6, 298 out of 1549 engineering students at Ryerson were female (16.1%).
Word of mouth and publicity generated by the "Discover Engineering" project (including TV and radio coverage and multiple articles in the daily press and a variety of magazines) has almost certainly contributed to the observed growth. The camp is clearly effective in attracting women to study engineering at Ryerson.
It is interesting to observe, however, that relatively few "Discover Engineering" alumni are included in these numbers. It may be a result of social factors at play. Ryerson Polytechnic University, located in the heart of the most multicultural city in Canada, has traditionally attracted large numbers of students from working class communities. With its blue collar image, Ryerson as the place to study may lack appeal to those camp participants who have higher than average grades and thus more options in choosing a university. This fact underscores the importance of reaching young women representing the core constituency of Ryerson, many of whom face additional financial and cultural pressures not to consider professional careers, especially in a male-dominated field of engineering. The "Discover Engineering" project fulfills this objective both directly and indirectly. Since its inception the project has provided bursaries to offset the cost of attending the camp, and efforts have been made to focus strongly on the public school system. As a result, over the years the camp participant body has been very diverse, including students from inner city schools as well as from the suburbs. After seven years the project has also achieved a recognition level where it can affect the perception of Ryerson. It is hoped that the project helps solidify the image of Ryerson as a women-positive space, thus attracting women to study engineering here.
B. The Young Girls NetworkStudents attending the course are often thought of as unusual in their high schools in that they are very interested in mathematics and science, and thus feel isolated. The camp is an opportunity for them to spend a week with other girls of similar interests, which is often the first time this has happened in their lives. There is anecdotal evidence to support this, and it is suspected that many friendships begin at the camp project.
C. Community BuildingThe collective work of the Women in Engineering Committee at Ryerson has built a team of professors, staff and students that is committed to encouraging and supporting women in engineering. The success of the camp, and the increasing presence of women in engineering classrooms, is reflected back to the committee. It is especially significant for women engineering professors, most of whom otherwise would spend their entire professional lives teaching classes of men.