Polytechnique Montréal president, Maud Cohen, on International Women’s Day

March 9, 2023
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Maud Cohen

This year’s theme for Women’s Day is “embrace equity.” What does that mean to you?

I was elated to take the helm as president of Polytechnique Montréal last June. And equity within our institution was a key item on my agenda when I came on board.

To me, “embracing equity” means pledging that our university will take concrete steps to treat everyone fairly and inclusively. Together we must ensure that all members of our community—students, faculty, researchers and staff—have equal opportunities to learn, grow and succeed. We must work to remove systemic barriers and biases that may be holding back certain groups.

I’m proud to be part of an engineering university that strives to shatter stereotypes and encourages women to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I will further this mission during my term and ensure that Polytechnique “embraces equity” by continuing to support the success of our female students and the professional development of our graduates, professors and employees.

Above all, we must proactively promote diversity and inclusion. We are committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse talent pool by ensuring that everyone is treated the same, without bias or discrimination.

Promoting gender equality is still an imperative. We must combat gender-based discrimination and inequality and work to ensure equal opportunities for women in all spheres, including education, employment, politics and family life.

The theme of International Women’s Day, “embrace equity,” means recognizing that women have the same rights as men and that they too can access opportunities that will allow them to reach their full professional and personal potential.

We need to create a culture where every individual is valued for who they are and what they bring to our engineering university. This requires unwavering commitment and concrete action to create an inclusive environment where everyone belongs and thrives.

We must shape a world where women and men have the same rights, opportunities and dignity.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

Since I became president of Polytechnique Montréal, I’ve had the honour of interacting with the next generation of female leaders who will transform the field of engineering. I love talking to and learning from our students and sharing a few words of advice in return. As they begin their internships or careers, I encourage them to analyze and understand the technical aspects of the organization they’ll be working for and keep up with the latest technologies and industry trends. Women must continue to learn and grow as they advance in their careers.

I want to remind these future leaders that they will be a source of inspiration and motivation for their teams. They will have to resolve conflicts and make tough calls every day. They will have to set the bar by being genuine, honest and respectful.

To excel as a female leader, build relationships now with your colleagues, peers and other people in the industry. Go to networking events and conferences and don’t be afraid to seek advice from people with more experience. A strong network can help you identify business opportunities and solve problems.

Find a mentor in your company or professional circle. It should be someone who has excelled in the engineering field and can guide you through your career. Someone who can give you valuable insight and help you achieve your goals.

Be willing to step outside your comfort zone and take calculated risks. The most rewarding results come from creativity and challenging the status quo.

In a male-dominated space, visibility can be a struggle for women. Be confident in what you do and self-assured in what you say. Be assertive when presenting your ideas and take every opportunity to address an audience.

Success in engineering requires perseverance. Don’t be discouraged by obstacles or setbacks. Leverage them as an opportunity for learning and professional growth. Stay positive and stay at it to reach your goals.

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Lisa Wallace
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Universities Canada
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Tagged:  Equity, diversity and inclusion

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