Dr. Heidi Ploeg, BSc'88, MSc'91, PhD'00, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, has been appointed as the Smith Engineering's inaugural Chair for Women in Engineering for a five-year term. This new role has been made possible through a $3 million gift from an anonymous engineering alumni member passionate about ensuring that more women become leaders in engineering education and practice.
Women have faced significant obstacles to STEM careers over time, and continue to be under-represented in these industries. According to Engineers Canada, only 18 percent of working engineers licensed in Canada are women.
The new Chair has a mandate to increase the number of women who become practicing engineers and scholars. The gift will be used to fund research by the Chair, and to develop and deliver new curricula that is inclusive to women, including support for the MECH 333 course Gender, Engineering and Technology pioneered by MECH professor emerita Dr. Geneviève Dumas. The gift will also support existing outreach and support programs aimed at encouraging women and girls to pursue education and careers in engineering fields.
"This new Chair for Women in Engineering is an important step in the much-needed process of positive change," says Dr. Kevin Deluzio, Professor and Dean of Smith Engineering. "It would not have been possible this year without this incredibly generous $3 million donation from an engineering alumni family. Dr. Ploeg has a vision to make engineering more attractive to a more diverse student body who are motivated to help make the world a better place. I'm excited that she has agreed to guide Smith engineering at the vanguard of women engineering scholars in Canada. Thanks to our donor, she now has the opportunity and resources to have more of an impact to increase the number of women engineering students.