Editor’s note: This is one of a series of pieces commemorating the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique murders. Read other Western community members’ reflections on the lessons that still echo – and even on those lessons still ignored – three decades out from that tragic day.
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I remember the moment, distinctly. I had just graduated from my chemistry program. It was a horrible moment for all Canadians, but especially for women in science. For those of us in that area, and in Engineering, it was particularly meaningful.
It was, actually, hard to believe. I was lucky in that I never felt like it was an unusual decision to be studying science. I had always loved and excelled in math and science and always had teachers who supported me, and supported me continuing on. My parents certainly supported me in pursuing a technical education.
It never even occurred to me that somebody might think that was not normal.
I was fortunate in that way, to have never encountered any of the bias, from anybody that mattered.
Looking back, it is important to remember what happened, and the struggles women once had for equality and to be accepted into areas where they hadn’t been as prevalent in the past.
And thank god for them.
Today, we have so much more diversity in all kinds of different areas, whether it is science, engineering, medicine or in all kinds of positions of leadership. That’s due to the trailblazers who weren’t afraid, back in the day, to pursue education and careers in these fields.
Because of them, it’s now a totally different story.
Just look at the number of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) today compared to 20 years ago – more women are graduating today with degrees in STEM than ever before. That’s pretty amazing.
There are just so many more opportunities for women in business and for women who study STEM or the trades to create exciting, fulfilling careers. It goes beyond creating something meaningful and personal for themselves, in terms of the significance it brings to our country, economically.
It’s gratifying to see how far we have come in the past 30 years. The current generation of young people coming up is increasingly unaware of the gender biases, and the ethnic biases, and the biases around sexuality that once existed. I love to see this in my children’s generation, and hopefully, we’ll see it continue in each generation to come.
It gives me a lot of hope that we will continue to evolve as a society, so that an event like what happened in Montreal won’t ever happen again.
Linda Hasenfratz, BSC’89, MBA’97, is CEO of Linamar Corporation and Chancellor at Western University.