Forum on Diversity and Inclusivity in Engineering


This forum was jointly organized by the Faculty of Engineering and the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), in collaboration with the McGill Engineering Student Center on October 9th, 2014.

This forum brought together the McGill Engineering community to openly discuss matters of diversity and inclusivity in our Faculty, and in the engineering profession in general. During this forum, attendees were able to share their experiences, discuss with speakers common problems and potential mechanisms and strategies to deal with them, and form allyships across the spectrum of the engineering community based on improved understanding. Discussions were oriented around the topics of gender, racial and cultural diversity, micro-aggressions, as well as inclusivity in University processes.


All members of the McGill engineering community were invited to attend this forum. One of the forum's purpose was to bridge the gap between students, staff and professors, in terms of perceptions and conceptions of diversity and inclusivity.

Some of the questions addressed in this forum:

  • Do you want to build an inclusive space?
  • Why do women represent only 16% of OIQ members when 25% of McGill Engineering students are women?
  • Do you want to discuss how we can support students in Engineering?
  • Did you know that racial microaggressions actually have an impact on the victim's cognitive abilities?
  • Have you ever felt that your experience was denied? That you won't succeed in Engineering?
  • Engineers have designed smartphones, one of the most accessible platforms - can we make Engineering an accessible space?


This forum is the first in a series of events that will aim at building long-term support networks within the engineering community, through sharing of perspectives and experiences; developing a shared understanding of the challenges and benefits of creating a truly diverse and inclusive community in Engineering; maintaining an atmosphere of common engagement and commitment towards this community.


Moderator: Prof. Fabrice Labeau, Associate Dean (Faculty Affairs), Faculty of Engineering.

For resources (articles, videos, etc.) on diversity and inclusivity in Engineering, visit

For more information, feedback, and questions, please contact equity [at] (EUS) or [at] (Faculty).

Funded in part by the Mary Brown Fund.


A keynote presentation followed by questions to the speaker, followed by a panel which will be interrupted at some point to launch into roundtable discussions within the audience; at the end of these discussions, each table will bring back the results of its discussions to the general audience and the panel, to relaunch the panel discussions.

Keynote Speech

Dr. Karen Tonso

Dr. Karen Tonso, Wayne State University (Michigan): A presentation that includes some background information on the challenges that affect underrepresented and excluded groups in engineering (women, queer people, people with disabilities, Indigenous people). The presentation might also discuss how these identities intersect with race and will open for a discussion about how to make changes.

Panel Speakers

  • Charmaine Lyn, Director of Medical Admission, Faculty of Medicine
  • Prof. Tal Arbel, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Sara Houshmand, PhD student, Faculty of Education.
  • Loréane Goma, U3 student, Mining Engineering.

Speaker Biographies


Karen L. Tonso is Professor Emeritus of Social Foundations, at Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). She is author of On the Outskirts of Engineering (Sense Publications, 2007), a co-author of Women’s Science (University of Chicago Press, 1998), and has authored more than 50 chapters, journal articles, and conference papers. Her 2006 article “Student engineers and engineer identity: Campus engineer identities as figured world” received the Cultural Studies of Science Education Distinguished Paper Award. She received the Betty Vetter Award for Research from the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) in recognition of exemplary achievement in research related to women in engineering in 2009. A former engineer, she worked for 15 years in the petroleum industry prior to beginning her career in education. Her research interests focus on social justice by examining the structures of learning settings (in and out of school) in engineering education, in a ragtime festival that countered structures implicated in rampage violence like Columbine, and in a de-chartering urban school. Karen’s work has been supported by an AERA/Spencer Fellowship and grants from the State Policy Center at WSU, and she was Principle Investigator of the NSF ADVANCE grant at Wayne State University, which focused on departmental and institutional change in science and engineering.

Tal Arbel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill University, and a member of the Center for Intelligent Machines (CIM). She has been actively involved in outreach and promotion of science and engineering for over 20 years. A large portion of her motivation in engaging in these activities has been to indirectly and directly encourage girls and women to consider careers in the STEM fields. She has been for instance invited to speak at local girls’ schools about her career path and life as an academic, and has participated in many activities promoting awareness of and interest in engineering and science careers for women.

Loréane Goma is a third year mining engineering student at McGill university. Cameroonian and Congolese from her parents, she was born and raised in France before moving to Montreal for her studies. She has been a member of POWE since her second year in university and now holds the position of vice president outreach in this club. Her responsibilities include managing the EM(ePOWE)R mentoring program, organizing General engineering panels as well as high school visits and presentations.

Sara Houshmand is a doctoral student in Counselling Psychology at McGill University, where she also received her M.A. She has previously served as PGSS Equity Commissioner and is a recipient of McGill’s Award for Equity and Community Building. Sara’s research interests include multicultural counselling and education. Her dissertation will examine coping responses to subtle stressors related to racial and ethnic identity. Sara’s work can be found in journals such as Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology and the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement.

Charmaine Lyn was formerly Assistant Dean in the Faculty of Law. She is now Director of the Office of Admissions, Equity and Diversity in the Faculty of Medicine. Her focus on outreach and community engagement spans both positions, particularly relating to recruitment and admission of under-represented groups, such as the High School Outreach Program (Law) which was launched by her and her current involvement in the admission pipeline program in Medicine. Such programs have considerable potential for long term impact, and in the case of the outreach program in law, have already had such an impact.