As a high school student looking toward the future, Nancy Manchak remembers being drawn as much to the soft disciplines as she was to the sciences.
She also remembers what tipped the scales. Manchak can trace back her career path to a summer job at a University of Alberta engineering lab in Edmonton—and to the women who helped get her there.
“(That summer job) really opened my eyes to what a career in engineering could mean, and the different opportunities that are available. It drew me to the problem-solving aspect and how much of an impact you can have to benefit society,” says Manchak of the University of Alberta summer position she obtained through the U of A’s Women in Scholarship Engineering Science and Technology (WISEST) program.
Now just 24, a university graduate and working toward her formal designation as a professional engineer at Enbridge, Manchak is inspiring other women to pursue engineering, a field where women remain underrepresented. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in recent years, women make up nearly half of the workforce, but represent just a quarter of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce.
“Engineering isn’t depicted on TV or in the media as often as other professions are, and being less visible can make it harder for young women to understand exactly what engineering is,” she says. “When I describe my job role, I like to explain how I work to deliver people the energy they need, and provide context on the difference that engineers make in people’s lives.”
Today, on International Women’s Day, Manchak is celebrating how far she and others have come in helping women and girls achieve their ambitions.
“At my first engineering job, I was the first female to ever work in that field location, along with 30 male co-workers,” recalls Manchak. “I had to be OK being myself in that role, and understand that I can adapt to that environment, but also maintain my own identity. Now, I’m more confident that I can bring my diverse experiences and a different perspective—which can lead to a better solution in the end.”
The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is #PledgeforParity, a deliberate response to the World Economic Forum’s 2015 prediction that it will take until the year 2133 to close the gender gap. It’s a stark reminder that there’s still work to be done to ensure women across the globe can reach their full potential.
At Enbridge, we encourage the career advancement of women through active leadership development, mentorship and peer coaching, through groups like Women@Enbridge and FEMININ (Females in Engineering) dedicated to the attraction, retention and engagement of female employees.
“Empowering women is something that we need to work at as a global community,” says Manchak, who volunteers for both WISEST and FEMINEN. “Our responsibility is to champion other women who don’t necessarily have the same opportunities as we do.”
Initiatives like FEMINEN and Women@Enbridge help us build and shape the foundation of diversity and inclusiveness that are essential for the effectiveness of the workplace.
“We encourage diversity and inclusion in our workforce,” says Lori Campbell, Enbridge’s Senior Manager of Enterprise Diversity and Inclusiveness, “because we understand that different backgrounds, abilities, and perspectives helps keep us innovative and dynamic, and contribute to our success.”