Sustainability and Retention of Women in the Tunnelling Industry

Author(s) L. Kijak
Presented at the Tunnelling Association of Canada TAC 2023 – in Toronto from September 24-26. The theme of this year’s event, “Smart Solutions, Future Growth”, will be highlighted throughout the conference through keynote speakers, plenary presentations, technical sessions, networking, and a trade exhibition to showcase tunnelling and trenchless technology throughout Canada and around the world


Since the early twenty first century there has been an improved enrollment of female undergraduates in Engineering and Geoscience degrees. As the Engineers Canada’s “30 by 30” initiatives begin to materialise, the uptake in enrollment has begun to transform into an increase in Professional Engineering and Geoscience designations amongst women. However, the trend of losing the primary childcare provider continues. As employers strive to help achieve the “30 by 30” goals there is a disconnect between hiring practices and employee retention, offsetting the professional designation gains. The loss of skilled and highly trained women from the employer impacts both company profitability and disrupts project delivery. It is a challenge for internal mentorship, client facing and succession planning, which all benefit from a diverse workforce. Given the anticipated increased demands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) jobs due to rapid urbanization and climate change, together with the uptake in young female Professional Engineers and Geoscientists, how should the industry adapt to ensure a diverse workforce continues to meet the challenges of the future? This paper attempts to initiate the dialogue around flexible working to maintain the set-out goals.