"Women do not allow themselves to showcase their talents and charge ahead for fear of the image that they might project."
- MARIE-ÈVE FECTEAU, Eng., Associate Partner, Industrial Mechanics, Energy & Resources, CIMA+
International Women in Engineering Day represents an opportunity to introduce inspiring female role models. Here are two women who are thriving in the heavy industry sector. Marie-Ève Fecteau, Mechanical Engineer and Associate Partner at CIMA+, took the time to meet with Véronique Morin, Paper Machine Maintenance Engineer in the pulp and paper industry, a sector that brings its fair share of challenges.
Marie-Ève: Why do you think it’s important to promote women in engineering?
Véronique: I believe that it’s important to promote everyone in engineering, because it is an interesting, inspiring, stimulating and practical field, where all of the concepts of physics can be applied, but it’s still not very well known. It shouldn’t be a field that women stay away from only because they have been under-represented historically.
Marie-Ève: Do you think you face different challenges and experience different things because there aren’t as many women in engineering, and does your career path compare to a man in engineering, or do you think yours is different because there is no parity among the sexes?
Véronique: My opinion is somewhat mixed, because my professional path has been relatively smooth, given the doors that have been opened to me in an area where women had already been accepted in the role of engineer. On the other hand, I have run into a few roadblocks on the part of certain older men who don’t respect my decision-making ability. Sometimes, during meetings, these colleagues look to people other than me for direction or approval. I don’t really worry about it, because the others at the meeting support me in my role and encourage those colleagues to address me directly to get a response.
Marie-Ève: It’s good to have female role models. The biggest challenge for me is reconciling family with career. Do you have role models, and how have they inspired you?
Véronique: One of my role models is a Director who was my superior, and she had three children. I thought it would be very difficult to reconcile work and family, so I put the family part on hold in order to stabilize my career first. I think this issue is still a typically female dynamic.
Marie-Ève: Finding the right balance between a young family and professional ambitions is difficult, but not impossible. However, society needs to change. It has to start by having more women, and recognition should no longer be based on the number of hours worked.
Véronique: I think companies have to be more open to telework, because it makes it much easier to reconcile work and family. It allows you to manage both family issues and professional priorities more effectively.
Marie-Ève: What do you think women can bring to the field of engineering?
Véronique: I don’t like to categorize men and women, but we are obviously different. Women often have a more global view of a situation, which allows for better communication with respect to the various obstacles. The role of an engineer requires excellent listening skills and the ability to understand challenges, streamline and summarize. Of course, men are able to do these things, but they may be easier for women in general.
Marie-Ève: In your experience, given that you have not encountered many setbacks and you have been well supported, do you not see this as a problem?
Véronique: I had to overcome some problems related to communication between management and employees, which raised a lot of emotions among the employees. My challenge was to take a step back so that I didn’t feel like I was being attacked personally. I was able to show that I was listening and maintain a better work environment. I believe that this is one of the things that women can bring to the field of engineering, and something that they excel at.
Marie-Ève: Women are generally more sensitive to these things. They have a tendency to take everything personally. What are you most passionate about in your work? Why did you choose engineering?
Véronique: I enjoy the technical and practical side of the profession, and using resources wisely to move forward and grow. In the industrial sector, things have to keep moving forward, and the equipment has to be maintained. The investment is high, and that’s something that I enjoy about my work.
Marie-Ève: Why did you choose pulp and paper?
Véronique: The fact that I specialize in this field is really a result of circumstances. I used to work in the energy efficiency field. I was always interested in heavy industry. At first, I wanted to be an astronaut. When I started university, I realized that it was a very narrow field, so I turned to this type of engineering.
Marie-Ève: I wanted to be an astronaut too, but astrophysics was a less practical and more theoretical field. Ever since I was a little girl, I have felt a responsibility to change things for future generations. Was it the same for you?
Véronique: I hope that the gender barriers that we have helped tear down don’t come back to hinder future generations, and it’s up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen through education.
Marie-Ève: In your opinion, are women generally treated equally in all areas of society?
Véronique: Women still have to prove their worth and defend their position. It wasn’t that long ago that women didn’t have access to this type of position, so they have to take their place, be proud of what they have accomplished and grow their confidence in order to attain even higher summits. However, it’s not only up to women to make this happen.
Marie-Ève: For women, it’s not enough to showcase their talents and charge ahead, for fear of the image that they might project.
Véronique: In the past, I have experienced situations where the person who cries the loudest within a work team gains the most points. In my opinion, that’s what we have to do to climb the ladder. There is no loss of integrity in showcasing your talents, and we have to be bold enough to do it.
Marie-Ève: There is a thin line between taking your place and remaining true to yourself. As a woman, it’s easy to feel like an impostor.
About Marie-Ève Fecteau
Marie-Ève joined CIMA+ in 2011, after having completed a two-year contract in South Africa, where she excelled as Senior Manager for a company that specializes in the manufacture of solar water-heating systems. This experience led her to hone her skills in engineering project management and production supervision. At CIMA+, she holds the position of Plant Engineer in the Industrial Mechanics Department. In recent years, Marie-Ève has been working primarily in the pulp and paper, hydroelectricity and chemical products sectors.
About Véronique Morin
Véronique earned her Bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering from Université de Sherbrooke. Since 2009, she has held a number of positions as Energy Efficiency Project Manager and Coordinator, and as Project Team, Maintenance Assistant and Maintenance Supervisor in the pulp and paper industry. She is currently a Paper Machine Maintenance Engineer at Domtar, Windsor.