New centre will attempt to change male-dominated workplace culture

February 7, 2010

EDMONTON, AB, Feb. 7, 2010/ Troy Media/ — For Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour, the launch of the WinSETT Centre is a dream come true.

Dr. Armour has long been known for her tireless efforts to engage and promote women in the sciences and technologies. Back in the early 1980s, she was a founding member of WISEST – Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology. The movement spread across the country.

Dr. Margaret Ann Armour
Dr. Margaret Ann Armour

Now, through her efforts and vision, Edmonton is home to the WinSETT Centre. An acronym for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology, the WinSETT Centre is the hub for an ambitious national effort to significantly boost the numbers of women in the workforce and change the culture of such fields as engineering and trades.

“Only 12 per cent of engineers are women,” she says. “The kind of per centages of women in construction is dismal. It’s four per cent. In the sciences, it’s probably 35 per cent, which is over the critical mass which makes it sustainable.”

Research shows that that, even when women do enter these fields, they tend to leave after about 10 years. Blame lies, Armour says, directly with an inflexible male-dominated culture in the workplace.

While trying to balance work and a family has a lot to do with it, says Dr. Armour, “if it’s a work place which is still fairly well male dominated, it has a male culture. And the male culture is, ‘you shall work 18 hours a day and always be there.’

“Women are saying, ‘I don’t want that. I don’t want that kind of lifestyle. I want a balance.’ We’re hearing that young men are saying, ‘We want a balance, too.’ So we’re hoping that things will change. But that’s been very slow.”

Among the first programs the WinSETT Centre will undertake is leadership training. “Leaders need to appoint leaders,” Armour says. “And, although we know it’s very important to have more women entering fields like engineering, if we don’t have women as leaders in engineering, the culture of engineering is not going to change. So when young women come into the workforce, they’re not going to stay.”

~ Cheryl Croucher

Channels: The Calgary Beacon, February 8, 2010

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