"The more diversity there is in the way things are done and the way we think, the greater the possibilities for innovation."
- ANN LUSSIER, Eng. Partner/Senior Director/Environment, CIMA+
In honour of International Women in Engineering Day, two former university colleagues who now work together on the same projects agreed to get together to discuss their career path and the contribution that women make to the field of engineering. It is our great pleasure to introduce Ann Lussier, Senior Director of the Environment Department at CIMA+ in Montréal, and Marie-Michèle Garneau, Project Manager for Major Construction Sites at the Centre de services scolaire de Montréal (Montréal centre for school services).
Ann: Why did you choose a career in engineering?
Marie-Michèle: I didn’t follow the conventional path. I found school easy when it came to science, languages, literature. At Cégep, I went into Humanities, and then at university, I opted for Professional Writing, because I really love to write. However, after some time, I started to think about science and working as a team on a common project, and I missed that. I realized that the field of professional writing is a field where you usually work alone. So I went back and took all the science courses at Cégep so that I could get into engineering. I chose engineering because I have always been interested in, but also because it’s a field in which there are so many possibilities, from civil engineering to geology, the environment, materials engineering, and so on. These fields overlap, and there is a certain degree of continuity to the work. In terms of tasks, anything is possible. You get to do management work, field work, technical work, research – there are a multitude of possibilities. There is room for all kinds of skills and for people like me who have a variety of interests and a tough time choosing a career. Engineering is perfect for me, because it opens up so many options.
Ann: For me, it was a shock at first. I chose engineering for many of the same reasons you mentioned, but I never looked at the percentage of women and men in the field. When I started at university, I was frankly surprised to see so few women, and I’m sure you noticed it too. This brings up the following question: In your opinion, what contribution do women make to the engineering industry? I believe that the answer to this question may help other women to choose a career in engineering.
Marie-Michèle: I’ve been in the industry for more than fifteen years, and I have seen a certain amount of growth. There are more and more young women choosing careers in engineering. In terms of diversity, it’s good to see the number of women in our industry increasing. We obviously have the skills needed for management, communication, understanding what’s going on, asking the right questions, working on construction sites, and other aspects. The fact that there are more women in the industry helps to dispel the myth of engineering partners working 90 hours per week. Things have changed, and now there’s a better work-family balance. We see healthy and inspirational models and a more equitable working environment, and this is reflected in the context of the projects that we execute.
Ann: We also have different ways of doing things, which can produce new solutions. The more diversity there is in the way things are done and the way we think, the greater the possibilities for innovation. We want women to be more aware of the opportunities available to them in the field of engineering. What advice would you offer to encourage women to choose this as a career?
Marie-Michèle: First of all, trust yourself, give yourself permission to try, to explore other avenues, whether it is a more technical profile, management work, field work, even politics. It’s a mistake to think that we are “impostors” in a world that is traditionally reserved for men. We have the skills to meet the challenges of this career. There is room for us, as evidenced by those who showed us the way and who stand as inspirational role models for us. Don’t be afraid to choose a career in engineering.
About Ann Lussier
Ann Lussier graduated from École Polytechnique de Montréal with a Geological Engineering degree, and has been specializing in the environment since 2007. She joined CIMA+ in 2011. During the course of her career, she has developed an expertise in managing projects beset by multiple and complex environmental concerns. Ann has been Senior Director of the Environment Department at CIMA+ in Montréal since 2020. She has overseen numerous environmental projects in the institutional (universities, schools) and public (cities and government departments) sectors, the petroleum, chemical and petrochemical industries and the electrical production/transmission sector.
About Marie-Michèle Garneau
Marie-Michèle Garneau holds a Bachelor degree in Geological Engineering from École Polytechnique de Montréal. For more than a dozen years, she has worked as an Engineer and Project Manager on environmental projects, including the characterization (Phases I, II and III) and rehabilitation of contaminated land in compliance with the Environment Quality Act. She is currently an Engineer and Project Manager for Major Construction Sites for the Centre de services scolaire de Montréal.