Seven Women That Changed the World

National Engineering Month is a time to celebrate engineering excellence in Canada. It is an opportunity to showcase how diverse the field of engineering is. And the possibilities are endless. From the lab to the field, from the marine environment to the built environment, from nanotechnology to aerospace, engineers are committed to making a difference in our lives and keeping humanity safe.

This year, at DSA we wanted to play our part and share with you a few of the significant contributions women have made to the field of engineering.  We are committed to helping young women consider engineering as a career choice. Let’s take a look at some remarkable and inspiring engineers in Canada and abroad!

Her Excellency, The Right Honourable Julie Payette

National Engineering Month Image - Her Excellency, The Right Honourable Julie Payette

Canada’s current Governor General, Julie Payette is known for being an astronaut, engineer, scientific broadcaster and corporate director. Ms. Payette has received a mind-blowing 27 honorary doctorates and can speak six languages. Her Excellency is an Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada, Extraordinary Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Commander of the Order of Merit for Police Forces, head of the Canadian Heraldic Authority and a Knight of the Ordre national du Québec.

Elizabeth Muriel Gregory (Elsie) MacGill

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1905, Elise became Canada’s 1st woman graduate to hold a degree in electrical engineering.  Elsie also held a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering which was very valuable during WWII when she lead a team of 4,500 workers who built more than 1500 Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft.

Emily Roebling

Emily Roebling stepped in as the first woman field engineer and technical leader of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband, Washington Roebling, became paralyzed and could no longer work without the help of his wife. Emily became responsible for much of the chief engineer’s duties, including day-to-day supervision and project management. The Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883 and holds a plaque honouring Emily and her husband.

Hedy Lamarr

National Engineering Month Image Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr might be recalled as a Hollywood heroine of the 1930s and 1940s. However, few likely know that she invented a remote-controlled communications system that would eventually be used by the U.S military.  Lamarr’s frequency hopping theory now serves as a basis for modern communication technology, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi network connections.

Ursula Martius Franklin

National Engineering Month Image of Ursula Martius Franklin

Ursula is an expert in metallurgy and materials science; she was the 1st woman to become a professor at the Faculty of Engineering, University of Toronto. Ursula authored over 100 research papers and reports and is an acclaimed contributor to books on the structure and properties of metals and alloys.

Veena Rowat

National Engineering Month Image of Veena Rowat

Veena is the 1st Canadian woman Ph.D. graduate in electrical engineering and the only woman in her 1973 graduating class at Queens University in Kingston Ontario. Veena worked for 36 years in the public service and won multiple awards throughout her career. Veena was the first woman president of the Communications Research Centre which is an internationally renowned agency of Industry Canada.

Harriet Brooks

Harriet is credited with the discovery of atomic recoil. Atomic recoil is the result of when an atom interacts with an energetic elementary particle. Harriet is considered one of the leading women of her time in the field of nuclear physics, second only to Marie Curie.

For National Engineering Month, DSA wanted to acknowledge the contributions of these women who have had, and continue to have a significant impact on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities. We at DSA support organizations like Engineers Canada that are encouraging educators, community organizations, parents, and industry to deliver outreach programmes that support young women to explore their interests in these fields. We want to ensure that we have even more stories like these to inspire the next generation.

You can learn more about Engineers Canada’s efforts here.