02/22/2014 12:16 EST | Updated 04/24/2014 05:59 EDT

We Need More Women in Aerospace

There is no doubt that raising awareness on issues such as STEM, particularly Engineering and Aerospace fields in Canada is a valuable experience to offer. Seminars and conferences are a big part of making the necessary noise in order for professionals who are in the industry and the future generation who will enter the field to better understand what is actually taking place in the industry.

Gatherings such as conferences and association meetings are imperative when tackling issues in the industry where experts from that particular industry are present to discuss solutions and future opportunities. In the aerospace industry is no different. Much needed conversation needs to take place in order for upcoming talent to understand issues and challenges and how to be a part of the solutions that need to be implemented once they embark in this field or any of the STEM fields for that matter. Given that the experts are there to offer a better understanding of what and how solutions were handled in the past and to endow wisdom to the future generation of space engineers, it will give the young generation a good idea where things are once they will board on to undertake the innovative and exciting opportunities presented to them.

The wisdom and support passed on is crucial as it also stands for creating curiosity and interest in this industry that is slowly going to become a sought after talent in Canada. With the current workforce becoming of age of retirement in Canada and the upcoming high demand to fill those positions in the near future how do we ensure that this will not become a crisis but a smooth transition where well trained engineers will come on board to fill those positions? According to an study done by Engineers Canada Replacement Demand would be almost doubled the national impact of extended retirement Engineers Lost to the Workforce Base Case = 48,104 Alternative Case =50,862


A minimum number of engineers will leave the workforce as the large population of Baby Boomers move into their sixties. Lower participation and mortality will reduce the work force each year by as little as 1.7% in 2011, for the younger occupations, rising to 2.5% in 2020 for the older occupations. These losses are referred to as "labour market losses".

This estimate does not take into account the likelihood that a growing number of engineers will take advantage of pension benefits to leave full time jobs. This risk is a serious challenge for HR management and recruiting even if a large proportion of the departing engineers continue with part time or consulting work. Higher replacement demands are estimated with research findings that vary from 3.0% of the labour force in younger occupations in 2011 and rise to 4.6% in older occupations in 2020 when these retirements are added to labour force losses. These higher levels of replacement demand are referred to as "limited retirements"

How can this situation improve and have the forthcoming empty spaces filled with talented engineers particularly in the space industry? The answer is rather simple, focus on giving access to talented individuals that come from all walks of life. Instead of cutting funds for this industry by the Government and with it exclude opportunities to visible minorities and women only to focus on traditional recruitment such as universities and trade schools. Late 2013, Canadian Science Commerce Association hosted a by monthly meeting where I had the opportunity to speak on the issue of women in STEM. As a founder ofhEr VOLUTION, a nonprofit agency based in Toronto focusing on giving access to opportunities in the STEM fields to girls and young women from low income families, I see firsthand how necessary it is to have awareness on the vast opportunities STEM field has to offer. I also see that, unless nontraditional programs such the ones hEr VOLUTION is planning are going to be supported through funding and partnership, we will still have issues in filling the employment gap in this industry.

Awareness on the existing issue such as lack of women in this industry as well as the tools much needed for parents to identify what to do next in case talent is acknowledged in their household is crucial in terms of finding the best solution in attempting in dealing with the problem. Having access to such resources and tools for parents we believe it is a great start in filling the gap that the space industry particularly and STEM industry as a whole is currently facing. Once we make the parents a part of the solution it will become easier to have well trained professionals when the times will come that they will become a part of the solution to our economy. However, unless we have the industry and government support such issues will be harder to tackle or worst, talent will be shifted in a different direction in which we are not willing to take responsibility for.

There are many other ways to encourage women in the Arospace industry besides programs such as the ones run by hEr VOLUTION and industry conferences such as the ones mentioned above. Industry's involvement can easily be done through mentoring future leaders recognizing that their contribution is instrumental in the outcome in terms of increasing the number of women who will be involved in this industry. One particular great example is Women In Aerospace Canada, an organization dedicated to expanding women's opportunities for leadership and professional development as well as increasing their visibility in the aerospace community is creating opportunities for both women and men to realize the possibilities in this industry. A most recent form of support to future talent in the industry was provided via 2nd annual speed mentorship event. This opportunity will change the face in leadership and women's involvement. The best part of the event is that, although it was organized for women's empowerment, men had a big role in terms of participating because they had the same goal, to have more women involved in the Aerospace industry.

When discussing opportunities for women in Aerospace industry Natalie Panek, a trailblazer in this industry and said at Tedx Talks:

Access to female mentors in STEM careers is significant because it provides opportunities for young women to ask questions about unknown career paths. This is about connecting the next generation of young females with women already accomplishing amazing feats in their fields. From the perspective of a mentor, it really is rewarding to be able to pass along knowledge and information that may have been hard to come by and to build an ongoing relationship of bi-directional learning and communication. Mentors and mentees are able to learn from each other, cultivating a curiosity for science, engineering, and technology across generations; really revolutionizing what women can accomplish in challenging fields. We as a society need to facilitate access to mentors for the next generation of female game-changers.