By Sissi De Flaviis

From a young age, Carleton University Department of Electronics Prof. Winnie Ye, has been fascinated with discovering how things are built and how they work, which planted an early interest in studying science, technology, engineering and math.

Prof. Winnie Ye

Prof. Winnie Ye

Coming from a tech-driven family, where both of her parents and two sisters studied computer science, Ye decided to devote herself to building and creating as an engineer.

Early this month, Ye was appointed as the Chair of ‘Women in Engineering’ (WIE) for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Canada for the year 2021, the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology—popularly pronounced as I triple E.

“I’m very excited to work with the IEEE Canada to raise awareness and promote women in engineering,” says Ye, a Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in nano-scale IC design for reliable opto-electronics and sensors, a fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC), current chair for the IEEE-Ottawa Section, and past chair of the IEEE-WIE Ottawa.

“This issue is very dear to my heart. As the only female professor in the Department of Electronics, I’ve witnessed first-hand the challenges in recruitment and retention of women in engineering,” says Ye.

Numerous Accolades

“On behalf of the entire Carleton community, we’re extremely pleased to congratulate Prof. Ye in being named as Chair of Women in Engineering for IEEE Canada,” says Larry Kostiuk, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Design.

“This prestigious role highlights numerous accolades received by Prof. Ye in recent years in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the support of women in engineering.”

In 2018, Ye became the first Canadian recipient of the international IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) Inspiring Member Award. She also received the 2018 Engineering Medal for Research and Development from the Ontario Professional Engineers (PEO), and the PEO Ottawa Chapter’s 2018 Engineering Excellence Award.

Winnie Ye holding a computer chip

Most recently, Ye received Partners In Research’s 2020 Technology and Engineering Ambassador Award.

As part of her new role at IEEE Canada, Ye plans to increase scientific and educational programs for women in engineering in Canada, promote national and international collaboration, and developing unique outreach programs.

“My goal is to establish a healthy and sustaining environment for the growth of the WIE community within Canada by involving local student branches and young professional groups, and professional societies and chapters,” says Ye.

Winnie Ye

Paving the Path for Others

Ye earned her bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Carleton University in 2000 and went on to study photonics and received her master’s degree and PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto and Carleton University respectively.

After finishing her postdoctoral fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University, she became a Carleton faculty member in 2009 as the Department of Electronics’ first female professor.

“The position at Carleton was really a perfect match for me,” says Ye, who grew up in Ottawa.

Within her department and faculty, Ye has been paving the path for incoming professors and staff who face challenges such as dealing with grant writing and maternity leave.

“Although we encounter different obstacles through different stages in life, there are specific challenges that female faculty members are facing,” says Ye.

“When I came back from my maternity leave in 2016, I basically had to re-establish my entire research group as my students had all graduated. It was daunting to feel the uncertainties of re-starting my career. But nobody really had that kind of experience in my department.”

Ye reached out to other female professors in the faculty and spent lunch hours getting advice from them about their past experiences.

“It was very helpful,” she says. “Now I can help others who are going through the same tough times and share with them how I got myself out of that craziness.”

Ye also has a soft spot for supporting female students.

“I can relate to their problems,” she says. “Female students can feel shy about expressing their opinions and pushing forward ideas because there’s this misconception about how disadvantaged we are as a female group in engineering.”

Throughout her career, especially when she was a student, Ye says she constantly faced a psychological cycle that bounced between trusting her instinct and self-doubt.

“You have to persevere,” she says. “If you fail, you have to tell yourself to never give up. You just have to really trust yourself that you can do it. If you are passionate about whatever you do and work hard, your contributions will shine.”

Carleton President Benoit-Antoine Bacon says Ye’s commitment to empowering women in STEM is, “simply outstanding.”

“Her continuous efforts have contributed to making our community more inclusive and more welcoming, not only in our Faculty of Engineering and Design, but at Carleton as a whole,” praises Bacon.

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Friday, October 30, 2020 in
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