03/08/2015 05:02 EDT | Updated 05/08/2015 05:59 EDT

UBC women engineering students at all-time high

Engineering has long been perceived as a male-dominated calling, but the University of British Columbia says a record number of female students are enrolling.

Nearly 29 per cent of students enrolled in engineering at UBC are women, up from 19.7 percent in 2010, says the university.

While the number is encouraging, Elizabeth Croft with the Faculty of Applied Science says even more can be done to encourage women to consider and stay in an engineering career.

"Diversity improves outcomes, so if you have a team of all men or all women, that team is not as smart as a team that has mixed men and women," Croft told On The Coast.

"When we don't have 50 per cent of the brains that are out there that have great, clever ideas as part of the engineering team, we're missing something. We lose economically for ourselves as a country."

Croft, a mechanical engineering professor and the associate dean of Education and Professional Development in the Faculty of Applied Science, says it's taken time to change the perception that engineering is a less ideal career path for women.

Here are some steps she says employers can take to encourage women to consider engineering as a lasting career.

Introduce family-friendly policies

"Engineering companies that are very keen to hire women are getting the idea that we should look at our policies, make sure we figure out how to handle leave, how to make it flexible for people to pick up their kids," Croft said.

"Both moms and dad wants those things. Those are just good people policies."

Make the workplace inclusive

Croft says tweaking the design of things like personal protective gear could make a workplace feel more inviting.

"When you're going out in the field, it's nice if the gloves fit and the helmets fit and the boots fit, so making sure there's a range of sizes, making sure that on site there's a washroom — that's really cool," she said.

Provide encouragement and mentorship

"Women in general … tend not to put themselves forward as much for the next assignment or for the next position," said Croft.

"It's really great if employers can encourage, and sort of say, 'Hey you, you could be great at doing this job. Why don't you give it a try?'"

To hear the full interview with Elizabeth Croft, click on the audio labelled: Women now make up almost a third of enrolled engineering students: UBC