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Sunday Spotlight #3

This week's feature is Heidi Ploeg, an associate professor in MME here at Queen's! She is leading the charge in tackling the gender disparity in engineering with her position of FEAS Chair for Women in Engineering (C4WiE). Described below are the initiatives that Dr.Ploeg is leading to create a more welcoming environment and help change the culture of engineering.


Entering her second year as the first inaugural FEAS Chair for Women in Engineering (C4WiE), Dr. Heidi Ploeg has been using her role and resources to support women in engineering at Queen’s University and in the Kingston area.

Last year, a $3-million gift from an anonymous engineering alumnus resulted in the conception of the Chair for Women in Engineering. The goal of this donation is to ensure that women have a place to become leaders in engineering education and practice, resulting in a more diverse work force which allows for better engineering decisions and products.

Dr. Ploeg, BSC’88, MSc’91, PhD’00, is an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. While the technical goal is to increase the number of women in engineering and ensure the retention of existing women in the field, Dr. Ploeg

believes that this initiative is truly broader and more complex than this goal. Through various initiatives, she thinks that by creating a more welcoming environment and changing the culture of engineering, the goals of the C4WiE will be achieved. Dr. Ploeg has hired Caroline Baril, Sci’21, as a research associate in support of the C4WiE.

Using the generous donation, Dr. Ploeg has the capacity to connect with K-12 students in Kingston as well as the undergraduate and graduate students at Queen’s University. In collaboration with Connections Engineering Outreach, Dr. Ploeg aids the youth programs, including various girls’ programs and other in-school programs. The donation also enables her to support eight summer undergraduate student researchers and offer seed grants for undergraduates, graduate students, researchers, faculty, and staff members.

At Queen’s, Dr. Ploeg has been focusing on creating connections with various student groups such as WiSE and Q-WASE. The goal is not to duplicate work that is already being done, but instead increasing the support for students and helping these clubs and conferences thrive through co-hosting events and seed grants. For student groups who strive for diversity, check out the C4WiE website for more information:

For graduate students, Dr. Ploeg has been working on more campus events and workshops where external speakers are invited to talk to students and introduce to them other perspectives and networking opportunities.

As C4WiE, Dr. Ploeg has recently reintroduced MECH 333 Gender, Engineering, and Technology. She has redeveloped the curriculum to be inclusive to women and it is available every winter semester as an elective open to all students.

The main goal this past year was to create and develop the Women in Engineering website to act as a main resource hub for students and Kingston residents. The website includes event information, networking opportunities, current initiatives and research related to the gender disparity in engineering.

To access the Women in Engineering website:

The website features the ‘Women in Action’ gallery which aims to highlight women in engineering roles and hobbies. This gallery aims to provide representation for women and shift away from the stereotypical image of an engineer. To join women in redefining the image of engineers, students from across Canada are encouraged to submit internship and co-op photos.

Visit the following link for the ‘Women in Action’ gallery:

For all resources from youth to academic and industry professional, use the following link for summer camps, conferences, mentorship programs, funding, research, networking and much more:

For this upcoming year, Dr. Ploeg will continue to execute the initiatives from last year, with the addition of more in-person events on campus. C4WiE encourages you to visit the website, join the mailing list, and send in any suggestions for new initiatives!

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