Miri Makin: Shifting Gears: The Impact of Extracurricular Exposure on Girl's Attitudes Towards Engineering

What inspired you to choose your MRP topic?

As the daughter of one of the few female engineers climbing the corporate ladder in the early 1980’s, I’ve always wondered why I never considered engineering as a potential career option. After presenting a new brand that would more effectively position engineering as a career option for young women in our MPC digital design course, I was offered an internship working with Ryerson and Hydro One to further develop a strategy to increase female enrolment in post-secondary engineering programs. The ability to collect ample qualitative and quantitative data in this role gave me the opportunity to dive into this important research question: how can we adapt the way we communicate engineering to increase the number of young women interested in pursuing engineering as a career?

What are the key findings of your research?

In my research the following findings were discovered:

  • Most young women had limited exposure and understanding of what engineering roles entailed
  • Young women typically suffered from low self-efficacy in math and science, or “stereotype threat”, in which they feared confirming negative stereotypes  
  • The majority of young women described themselves as looking for opportunities that valued creativity, problem solving, and making an impact in their careers; all of these values align with engineering
  • Young women were attracted to the freedom of career choice that a degree in engineering provides
  • Increased exposure to engineering through conversations with family and friends was correlated with interest in pursuing engineering as a career

How has your MRP research influenced the work you do now?

Before I embarked on my MRP, I could not have imagined taking on my current role as Manager, Corporate Communications at Bell. In fact, I had only ever considered working in Arts, Culture, Education or the Not-for-Profit sector; diving into the world of telecommunications networks and innovative technology was a complete departure for me. After encouraging young women to look into options they might not have felt qualified for, I decided to take my own advice - and I’m glad I did, because I’ve learned more than I could have imagined, both about the industry and myself.