Diversity and Engineering: A Collision of Passion and Intellect
A post-secondary facility without a women’s washroom. A professor sharing photos of topless women sunbathing in the Riviera.
These are just two of the realities that left an impression on Anjum Mullick, P.Eng., as she started her first year of an undergraduate degree in civil engineering. Although it sounds like a story straight out of the 1940s, it actually took place half a century later, in 1992.
Mullick realized she was about to embark on a hard, frustrating—and sometimes hostile—road.
“Mid-way through my career I was working at a large, multinational engineering firm, where there were few women and almost no diversity, especially in leadership,” remembers Mullick. “That was the time that I started working for change. I started to lead an employee resource group to advocate for developing and implementing a strategy to improve gender diversity in the industry—always on a volunteer basis.”
Recognized for passionate volunteerism
Since then, Mullick has continued to advocate for more diverse, inclusive workplaces. One of her first projects included exploring potential partnerships to build a successful diversity program, which is when she came across the Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology (WinSETT Centre). Halfway through her project with the non-profit, she was asked to join its board of directors.
Several years later, Mullick co-chaired the biannual conference for the Canadian Coalition for Women in Engineering, Science, Technology, and Trades (CCWEST), the WinSETT Centre’s parent organization. The innovative event—well-attended by women and men alike—was an outstanding and profitable success, garnering national attention and trending on Twitter in Edmonton.
“It’s important that APEGA members recognize the impact they have on the next generation of engineers and geoscientists. Whether they are parents or volunteers, they have a significant part to play as role models. I hope they embrace that responsibility.”
The accomplishment earned Mullick and her fellow conference committee members the 2019 Women in Engineering and Geoscience Champion APEGA Summit Award. Shortly after the conference, Mullick was asked to chair the Women in APEGA Advisory Group.
Her whirlwind of achievement caught the attention of the Government of Alberta, which selected Mullick as one of the 2020 Stars of Alberta Award Recipients in the newly created “Breaking Barriers” category. Along with being recognized with other extraordinary volunteers who contribute to the well-being of their communities, the award promotes interest in advancing diversity in the workplace, highlighting the work Mullick is doing.
Engineering an inclusive future
Mullick brings her passion for diversity and inclusion into her current role as director of engineering services at the City of Edmonton, establishing and formerly serving as chair of the Integrated Infrastructure Services department’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
“The advocacy of women in STEM fields is so important because I’m a woman and a person of colour, and I’m in leadership, and there are very few people like me,” explains Mullick. “I’m passionate that people who are coming up behind and beside me do not experience the same sort of barriers I did.”
Significant strides have been made, she notes, but there is still so much work to be done. The next biggest hurdle in her eyes is intersectionality in the workplace—realizing that people come from a wide variety of equity-seeking backgrounds. In particular, she wants to increase understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The engineering profession is all about problem solving and making things better, so those attentions and efforts should be focused on the workplace,” Mullick says. “Making it more diverse, more inclusive—that’s not been the case and in many instances, continues to not be the case.”
Learn about APEGA’s Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Work
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Anjum Mullick, P.Eng.