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“I think the young women have it easier”: Age, Gender, and Women’s Experiences in Canadian Engineering

Abstracts: Engineering has long been a male-dominated profession, with a reputation of being less than welcoming to women. In Canada and other Western countries, efforts to attract more women into the field date back decades. As a result of such initiatives, women entering engineering today could experience their work differently than those who preceded them. This paper draws on the life course paradigm to determine whether there are gender differences in engineering across age cohort. Analysing data from a survey and in-depth interviews with engineers in Ontario, Canada, the paper explores whether gender intersects with age cohort to determine experiences of employment, opportunities, and work-family conflict. Although women share some experiences across age – such as concerns about pay and recognition – differences by cohort emerged. Young women are disadvantaged compared to young men and others with respect to securing stable employment in engineering. Older women report more challenges with work-family conflict and have less decision-making authority at work. Interviews further suggest that young women both have it ‘easier’ and harder than others. The findings demonstrate how the life course paradigm can also be used to shed light on the intersection of gender and age in professions.

Credit: Tracey L. Adams, University of Western Ontario, Canada

Date: 2021