Women in Engineering
A message from the EMBS Liaison on the IEEE Women in Engineering (WiE) committee
Carolyn McGregor, PhD, SMIEEE
I am delighted to be continuing as the EMBS Liaison on the IEEE Women in Engineering (WiE) Committee. I also currently service as the North America – Canada representative on the EMBS Administrative Committee.
A common misunderstanding of the role of WiE is that it is something for only women to join. Approximately 30% of IEEE Women in Engineering members are men and a similar trend exists for those who are EMBS and WiE members jointly. The men represent fathers, grandfathers, uncles, sons and colleagues of women engineers. If you have a daughter or granddaughter who has a natural aptitude in science and maths, do you know of ways to foster that interest and show her that it is a worthy career choice for women?
I have heard it said many times that women provide a different perspective during the design process in engineering and informatics teams.
As the inaugural EMBS WiE Liaison I have worked to establish a WiE presence within EMBS through a number of different activities.
I have established an annual partner funding budget within the EMBS overall operational budget to support EMBS and WiE section activities. Did you know that EMBS chapters can apply to the EMBS Executive Office to for partner funding to support joint EMBS and WiE events within your section? At present this is a modest budget which can be grown in the future as demand increases. For example, perhaps there is a prominent female biomedical engineer whom you would like to invite to give a seminar for a technical meeting you would like to run. We can assist you with partner funding for that event.
In 2008 we re-established a WiE presence at EMBC, our annual flagship conference and each year I coordinate a WiE luncheon and invited session focusing on Women in Biomedical Engineering and Health Informatics. I have been proud to formalize a presence and awareness of WiE within the EMB society. Engineering traditionally has been underrepresented by women and a similar trend is evident in computing. Off all the areas of engineering the domains of biomedical and environmental have almost double the average percentage of females enrolled and graduates, though this is still very low at below 20%. Supporting women currently trained as Biomendical Engineers and Health Informaticians together with encouraging the next generation of girls to enter these fields is an important role of the focus on Women in Engineering within our society.
In the last 10 years I have focussed my research within the domain of supporting Neonatal Intensive Care Units. For myself I have found the domain of Health Informatics a very worthy and rewarding aspect of the application of computing and IT. I often say in my presentations that if the life of one neonatal baby can be saved then that will make my effort worthwhile as the grief to family and the caring physicians and nurses at the death of a child born premature who has a real potential for survival is immeasurable.
When I completed my PhD my Uncle and God Father asked me how I plan to use what I had learned for the betterment of society. This is still a philosophy that assists as I navigate potential new research aspects even today. While in general terms women tend to focus more than men on the impact to society and our planet, there is a trend that these domains are of increasing interest to men as well as women.
I have served for the past several years as an IEEE Mentor and many of my Mentees (all male) say that they chose me as they thought that I could provide some input for their family work balance. Many men today as well as women want to ensure they carve out quality time with their children and grandchildren. Have you noticed how many fathers and grandfathers are out pushing strollers and in the local parks during the working week. It still makes me smile when I have the chance to be out of my office to see that!
Ensuring the ongoing representation of women in the domains of biomedical engineering and health informatics is an important mandate for the society to continue to support from elementary, middle and high school initiatives right through to supporting women in the workplace.