Western Engineering Outreach hosts first Queering Engineering virtual conference

Last month, Western Engineering and partner universities introduced Queering Engineering, a conference to promote and support 2SLGBTQIA+ diversity in engineering.

Sponsored by Western Engineering and the Hydro One Women in Engineering Consortium, this two-day, virtual event engaged high school and post-secondary students, educators, and industry members in virtual workshops about the Queer experience and engineering.

Queering Engineering was greatly inspired by the work of EngiQueers Canada and local chapters, including Western EngiQueers. The conference began with a keynote address by Vanessa Raponi, Founder of EngiQueers Canada. Raponi discussed her unique story of overcoming adversity and the long process required to build a national organization that supports 2SLGBTQIA+ engineering students. In a later session, Western EnigQueers President Andrew Cohoon-Gallego and Vice-President Laura Stojcevski led a workshop on designing brave and safer spaces, emphasizing the role allies can play.

Allyship was vital to the goals of Queering Engineering. The conference offered allies the opportunity to listen and learn from students, educators, and industry role models who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+. Speakers and panelists discussed the importance of not staying silent and urged allies to be loud in their support. Support could include normalizing the sharing of pronouns, actively calling out homophobia in classrooms, and purposefully building brave spaces.

Creating visible role models was important to speakers Michelle Liu and Allie Kennington, engineering alumni from the University of Waterloo, and was one of the reasons they chose to fund the Liu-Kennington Award for the 2SLGBTQ+ Engineering Community at the University of Waterloo. Visibility builds mentorship opportunities, inspires pathways, and ensures that diverse voices are both heard and celebrated.

Conference attendees were also afforded the opportunity to learn more about the fundamentals of intersectionality in a session taught by WG Pearson, Associate Professor in, and Chair of, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Western University. Pearson discussed the roots of intersectionality and how considering gender or sexual Queerness separately from race, culture, socioeconomic status, class, and other defining characteristics is isolating and ignores the depth of a person’s self.

Western Engineering is excited to continue supporting underrepresented groups in engineering through innovative programs that inspire and empower the next generation of engineers. You can learn more about Western Engineering Outreach programs for youth here: https://www.eng.uwo.ca/outreach/index.html

Western Engineering is a founding member of the Hydro One Women in Engineering Consortium. Western, along with three partner schools (Ryerson University, Ontario Tech University (formally known as UOIT), and the University of Waterloo) work to increase enrolment, support and career opportunities for female students pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).