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An Insight into Women in Engineering at DIALOG: International Women in Engineering Day

June 21, 2023

Today, on International Women in Engineering Day 2023, DIALOG is proud to highlight our amazing women in engineering who help contribute to our practice in countless ways.

While DIALOG works to increase representation of women in engineering year-round, June 23 marks International Women in Engineering Day – an important day to bring extra awareness to the successes of women in engineering, and an opportunity to shed light on their unique and impactful perspective in the field.

We’ve asked women in engineering at DIALOG to answer some thought-provoking questions about what it means to be a woman in engineering. Take a tour with us across four DIALOG studios to hear how these amazing women got started in the field, learn their stories, and their hopes for the future of engineering.

CALGARY STUDIO: Vicki Hrap, EIT | Structural Engineering

How did you know engineering was the right career path for you?

I knew that engineering was the right career path because it has never felt limiting. In school, I studied topics that extended beyond my structural designation. I have given myself the toolkit one needs to solve complex problems, and no matter the application, I get to embrace my curiosity and love of math. This has prepared me well for the collaborative environment of DIALOG’s integrated practice.

What are you most proud of about being a woman in engineering?

I am most proud of the bonds I have made with other women in engineering. Because of our shared experiences, and the unfortunate fact that there still aren’t many of us, our community is a strong one. How my fellow women in engineering have lifted me up has been incredibly gratifying, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to support and advocate for them in return.

What are you looking forward to for the future of engineering?

I am looking forward to seeing how the fight against climate change continues to challenge the status quo of structural engineering, specifically regarding embodied carbon. Priorities are shifting, and it’s increasingly obvious that the “it’s just the way we do it” mentality is no longer acceptable. New solutions are needed, and in some cases, the problems themselves may even need to be redefined. We as engineers must become more creative and open-minded to tackle these challenges, and I believe that diverse ways of thinking – fostered by diverse teams – are going to (and need to!) play a large role in this.

EDMONTON STUDIO: Victoria Buffam, Engineer | Structural Engineering

What interests led you to entering the field of engineering?

When I was young, I loved watching houses be built in my neighbourhood. I was really fascinated with the way everything came together and how it stood up. As I grew up, this interest expanded to buildings, bridges, and construction sites. In school, I was really good at math and physics and enjoyed solving problems. Some very smart people in my life recommended that engineering would be a good fit with my interests and technical skills, and I am so glad that they were right.

What’s an impactful project you’ve been able to work on?

I had the opportunity to work on the renovation and addition to the IF Morrison Structures Laboratory at the University of Alberta. I spent a lot of hours in the lab doing research for my graduate degree, and so the building holds a special place in my heart. The renovation design was complicated and challenging, and I was able to push myself to learn and come up with solutions. Seeing the lab complete and in use was very special and I felt so fortunate to be part of the team making this space amazing for the next generation of structural engineers to come.

How do you see engineering as contributing to solving greater world issues?

Engineers are problem solvers, that is what brings us to this industry, and we can’t shy away from the big issues. We are in the business of building cities, which gives us a unique opportunity to influence our communities on a larger scale. Major issues like climate change and impacts to public health and safety have the potential to be solved through innovative design choices and interventions. We just have to be creative, passionate, and determined and collectively we can solve the problems facing us today.

TORONTO STUDIO: Alyssa Young, EIT | Mechanical Engineering

How did you get into engineering?

When I was in high school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do but I won a research scholarship to explore different streams of innovative engineering at the University of Toronto for the summer. There was so much problem solving and open-ended design work and I loved seeing things that started as vague, brainstormed ideas to fix small problems turn into built components that you could hold in your hand and continue to refine and improve. Now I get to do it on a much bigger scale!

What has been a milestone you’re proud of?

Moving through the design phases of Toronto Western Hospital has been extremely rewarding. This project is innovative in so many ways and I have learned so much about our work in healthcare as an integrated team and how to approach problems in a collaborative effort. I’m really looking forward to seeing this project through construction.

What advice would you give to women wanting to enter the field of engineering?

Join engineering outreach programs specific to women and make connections. This can be local to you, within your school or industry, or as broad as WISE. Mentorship is so important and there are lots of women in our industry who are willing to share advice. But overall, be confident in yourself and your abilities – you know what you’re doing!

VANCOUVER STUDIO: Sara Zhang, EIT | Structural Engineering

What interested you about engineering?

The possibilities. Every structural engineering problem has an infinite number of solutions, each creative and inspiring. It’s incredibly fun to witness my fellow structural engineers’ heated debates on different solutions to an engineering problem. I am very much ready for a lifelong pursuit of creativity and inspiration.

What’s an exciting moment that has happened in your career so far?

Being able to see the Broadway subway project comes to life has been a huge excitement in my career, and I am very much looking forward to riding the rails one day. It was really fun to be able to play a small part in this huge undertaking that one day will serve a lot of Vancouverites!

What do you hope for the future of women in engineering?

The opportunities and support that I was once given as a young female graduate and the tremendous amount of mentorship that I received from my colleagues and peers. I wish I’ll one day be able to extend a hand to other young female engineering graduates and guide them through their first steps in their career just like my mentors at DIALOG once did for me.

Thank you!

Thank you to each and every one of our women in engineering who continue to make an outstanding impact to DIALOG and the field of engineering:

Alyssa Young, Amanda Calder, Andrea Silva, Annelore Dietz Munoz, Anushka Karmalkar, Ashley Hayden, Carrie Emes, Elaine Hu, Haixia Deng, Helena Mills, Jennifer Harmer, Jessica So, Jordyn Tripp, Krupa Patel, Larissa Ulcar, Lida Rahimi, Marie Calagui, Megan Burton, Negin Vahdat Houlari, Noeline Tharshan, Olga Shuster, Qianqian Zhao, Rachel Firth, Rhuella Vel Demegillo, Rizwana Hussain, Sandra Renihan (Brusnyk), Sara Zhang, Shea Gonzalez, Stephanie Harding, Vicki Hrap, Victoria Buffam, Vivian Issak, Janice Mills, Amy Tran-Erion, Breanna Dussome, Diana Smith, Jeannie Tat, Maulina Saroya, Megan Brooks


International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), brought to you by Women’s Engineering Society (WES), promotes the amazing work that women engineers across the globe are doing. Celebrating its 10th year, INWED gives women engineers around the world a profile when they are still hugely under-represented. As the only platform of its kind, it plays a vital role in encouraging more young women and girls to take up engineering careers.