International Women In Engineering Day - Student Q&A with Rylee Davison
To help celebrate International Women in Engineering Day we asked Rylee Davison - 4th Year Biomedical Engineering student to share her story at U of G.
1 – When did you discover your passion for Engineering?
I discovered my passion for engineering when I was in high school. It was through my math, physics, and biology classes that I began to see the real-world applications of these subjects and that was when I was hooked. I have always had a natural curiosity to understand the reasons behind how things function and why they exist in the way they do. Taking these classes helped to satisfy my curiosity and that’s when I knew engineering was for me.
2 – Why did you choose the U of G’s Engineering program?
The reason why I chose Guelph is actually two-fold. The first reason was the fantastic reputation that the engineering department has. The curriculum prepares me for life after university, and the community of engineers are friendly, helpful and committed, which encourages me to achieve my goals. I also couldn’t decide between pursuing engineering or medicine and Guelphs' Engineering offered biomedical engineering which ended up being a fantastic fit. The second reason I chose Guelph is because I am a student athlete and U of G women’s hockey program is one of the best in the country, so this allowed me to pursue my sport to the highest level while also receiving my degree from an accomplished university. I can’t forget to mention that the beautiful campus and amazing food had a role in me choosing Guelph.
3 – Can you recall a big moment at U of G? i.e., a favorite professor, a “ah ha!” moment where you learned something that just amazed you, a discovery or major project you’re proud of.
I think one of the biggest moments at U of G goes all the way back to my first year. I was nervous coming to Guelph for engineering because I too had doubts. I didn’t know what I was walking into being in a difficult program at the university level. I had people telling me that I wasn’t going to make it past first year and that I should refocus on something easier. After sticking with it through one year I made the dean’s list and was named an academic all Canadian. These accomplishments helped solidify that I belong here and that I can see this through and accomplish something great in a field that I love.
4 – What work are you doing as the Doody Family Chair University Undergrad Research Assistant?
This summer as an undergraduate research assistant my main focus is developing a leadership workshop specifically designed for women in engineering. I am also working on gathering information to help write a research paper directed towards developing confidence and leadership skills for women in engineering. The hope is to be able to interview some women who have successfully made it into leadership positions and get an insight into their journey and use that to help other women hoping to succeed as well.
5 – Can you tell me a bit about the Guelph Engineering Leadership (GEL) workshop(s) you are working on for IEDI and leadership in Engineering?
The one workshop I am working on that I mentioned previously is a leadership workshop designed for women in engineering. The idea is to have the participants be able to first identify what barriers there are for women in engineering, especially those attempting to press into leadership opportunities. And then provide them with ways to overcome those barriers so they can apply those strategies into real world applications when/if it is necessary. The last section of the workshop will focus on how to build confidence as this is one of the major findings from studies done on women in STEM.
6 – Have you ever felt discouraged as a woman in Engineering? How did you face or overcome it?
I have never directly faced adversity, however, being a woman in a male dominated field comes with unique challenges that the rest of the engineering populations may not understand. As a woman in STEM, you are viewed through different lenses, and it requires a strong support system to help you succeed. My female professors and classmates have been crucial to my success as they keep me grounded and offer support when needed.
7 – Why do you think its important that women should equally contribute to the Engineering field?
I think it’s important that women equally contribute to the engineering field because we bring diverse perspectives, unique experiences, and viewpoints to the discussion that may not have been there previously. I also believe there is an untapped talent pool. By tapping into the full potential of female talent, we can address the needs and preferences of diverse communities, ensuring inclusivity in engineering projects. Lastly, equal contribution leads to equal representation which inspires future generations of girls to pursue engineering, creating a more diverse and inclusive profession for the benefit of society.
8 – What do you think we need to do as a society to encourage more women into the Engineering field?
I personally think it is crucial to promote STEM education early to generate interest among young girls and motivate then to pursue careers in these fields. We must also actively challenge societal stereotypes that associate engineering with masculinity by highlighting female role models and increasing the visibility women in the field. Another important step is to provide mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for women to help them advance their careers and be included in the conversations for opportunities and promotions. By doing this I think we can encourage more women to enter the field as well as remain the in the field for their entire career.
10 -What is your hope for women in the field say 10 years from now?
I hope to witness a greater presence of women in the field of engineering who have equal access to opportunities, promotions, and resources. Additionally, I wish to see enhanced diversity in leadership roles across various management levels. My ultimate hope is for the term “engineer” to stand on its own without the need to include “female” or women” and for the success of women in engineering to become the norm.