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Professor-led project looks to offer new opportunities to female engineers

Women’s Startup Network wants to close the gender gap in tech. 

The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Ottawa has begun a new peer mentorship initiative called Women’s Startup Network—a project geared toward helping female engineering and computer science students explore opportunities in entrepreneurship.

The program began in response to the lack of female participants in engineering and computer science programs.

A Statistics Canada study that looked at participation in university science, technology, engineering, math and computer science (STEM) programs found that women are proportionately underrepresented among STEM graduates when compared to other fields.

It also found unemployment rates were higher for women with a STEM degree than their male counterparts.

Hanan Anis, an associate professor at the School of Information and Technology (SITE), and the faculty coordinator in entrepreneurship and innovation at the university, said she became concerned by this.

Women are going to start succeeding in engineering programs “when they participate,” said Anis.

The network was founded by Anis alongside Catherine Elliott, a professor for the Telfer School of Management, and Catherine Mavriplis, who teaches within the department of mechanical engineering and is a part of the Pratt & Whitney Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering.

The peer mentorship program trains 11 senior students in entrepreneurship and communications by working with mentors on a project that interests them.

“This experience that the program offers is one of a kind,” said Lethania Martinez, one of the 11 mentors. “Being in the market and having access to these equipments and machinery, and amazing professors guiding you. That experience at the age that those students have is amazing.”

The mentors lead by example, such as Seedbase, a project started by two of the senior mentors.

Seedbase is a platform for early startup businesses looking for affordable resources, which helps them connect to specialized engineering students. The program offers younger students the ability to learn and gain entrepreneurial skills.

Martinez said she believes that women in engineering and computer science need to be able to cut it in the business world as well, because “technical is not enough anymore. Entrepreneurship is a must, now.”

For more information on how to get involved visit, https://engineering.uottawa.ca/entrepreneurship/women-start-up-network