With a nod to my current and future female colleagues for the Canada festival!

I attended my first lecture in mechanical engineering in September 1974 at the Université Laval. I remember sitting there and blushing, I never expected to be the only woman! I chose engineering after several nudges from destiny, like having a mother who believed in my abilities and like having discovered physics in secondary school with an excellent Ursuline nun at the convent St Pierre in Shawinigan. Still at the Université Laval today, it is now my turn to train future engineers and researchers. I am very proud to be participating in the development of hydraulic turbines with my research team and Canadian industry. These turbines are the most important source of renewable energy in the country. In fact, 65% of our electricity is from hydraulics. But I’ve needed a lot of determination to get to this point in my career!

My favourite things? Following my passions, like physics, using my own capabilities, like empathy and collaboration, obtaining quality results and making them known, and pursuing my goal with perseverance and determination. Oh yes! I also think it’s essential to develop links with other female scientists and engineers and to participate in their organisations. They have provided me with a milieu where I can recharge my batteries, they have played the role of mentor to me and provided me with opportunities to develop cross-disciplinary skills. All these things have allowed me to develop my career in a predominately male environment.

Today, I am no longer the only female in the class of course. According to Ingénieurs Canada (Engineers Canada), women represent around 19% of the students registered on undergraduate engineering courses. They have also achieved great breakthroughs in emerging branches of engineering, like environmental engineering, where they have almost achieved parity with men (40%). There are around 33,600 female engineers with a permit to practice – that is around 12% of all Canadian engineers. The growth in female participation since the 1970s is without doubt linked to the programmes run by numerous organisations in Canada over the past 25 years, which promote, prolong and develop women’s careers in science and engineering. I am thinking of Affestim (The French-Speaking Association for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), INWES (a global network of organisations of women in STEM), INWES Education and Research Institute, CCWESTT (the Candian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology), L’Oréal and Chaires du CRSNG (offering Grants for Research Chairs), among others, who work for women in the domains of science and engineering. They have allowed women to gain confidence in maths and science, to have better knowledge of scientific careers, to meet inspirational female scientists, to develop their skills, to access grants and prizes and to benefit from scientific teaching that is open to all, at all levels of study. I have personally met many exceptional women in these organisations, while developing my management skills.

We know that an increasing number of highly-qualified people is necessary for implementing innovative and sustainable solutions to resolve the contemporary problems we face, and this is a challenge. I am thinking in particular of the ageing population, of environmental challenges, of the increasing demand for clean energy, of the renovation of aging structures, etc. I have always been convinced, since I first became interested in this issue, that female scientists and engineers have important qualities and expertise to bring to the multi-disciplinary teams that have been set up. Keep watching, you will see the fruit of their wonderful work everywhere.

I invite you to the Canada 2030 festival! As many of my female colleagues and organisations have already done, I am supporting the "30 in 30" objective set by Ingénieurs Canada. They are aiming for 30% of new recruits to engineering in Canada to be women by 2030. In the meantime, let’s continue to get involved and share our success! 

For Women in Science

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