Research Project Report

Thanks to participants and supporters:

Thank you very much for your support and participation in this study of the career experiences and commitment of individuals trained in engineering living in Alberta Canada.

The interest of participants like you, with the assistance of The Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta (APEGGA) and the Consulting Engineers of Alberta (CEA), made this a unique project that provides important insights into the field of engineering and the factors that impact individuals commitment to the profession.  It is my hope that you find in these abbreviated findings information on the profession that can be used in your professional lives and that it is useful to professional associations as they continue working to enhance the experiences of engineers.

This project was also made possible due to the support of Canadian Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the University of Alberta. My thanks also go out to Dr. Harvey Krahn, the project supervisor, along with Dr. Karen Hughes, Dr. Helen Madill, Dr. Alison Taylor (all of University of Alberta), Dr. Gillian Ranson (University of Calgary) and Dr. Tracey Adams (University of Western Ontario) for their important feedback and suggestions.

Project Overview:

This research was undertaken to explore the experiences of men and women who were trained in engineering, with a focus on understanding what impacts retention within the profession and what it means to be successful in the profession.  A factor that was expected to play a particularly important role was gender as engineering continues to be a "densely masculine" profession with only 12.2% of engineers in Canada in 2006 being women. Women have also been found to be more likely to leave the profession than male colleagues (Preston 2004; Ranson 2003). This numerical dominance of men has been seen to shape the "culture of engineering", or the norms and values of how engineering should be undertaken.

This research was guided by an attempt to understand both the experiences of individuals and the culture of engineering through the following questions:

1) What is the "culture of engineering"?  What are the ideals of the profession?
2) What are dominant ways of working of individuals trained in engineering?
3) What are the factors that impact individuals commitment to the profession and retention in the field?
4) How do men's and women's experiences of the profession differ and how do these differences relate to disproportionately lower levels of retention among women?

Key Findings:


Preston, Anne E. 2004. Leaving Science: Occupational Exit from Scientific Careers. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Ranson, Gillian. 2003. "Beyond 'Gender Differences': A Canadian Study of Women's and Men's Careers in Engineering." Gender, Work and Organization 10:22-41.