Édith Ducharme strives to be role model for women in engineering 30 years after Montreal Massacre

Édith Ducharme knew she wanted to set an example for women in fields dominated by men when she chose to enrol in engineering physics at Université Laval in Quebec City.

“When I was in CEGEP, I was lacking female role models and it was a hard time for me to decide which career path I was going to choose,” she said. “When I got into engineering, I really wanted to become the model I didn’t have at the time.”

A day before the 30th anniversary of the École Polytechnique massacre, Ducharme received the Order of the White Rose. The $30,000 scholarship, which was created in 2014, is awarded to a Canadian woman in graduate engineering studies each year.

Fourteen women at École Polytechnique were murdered by a gunman who stormed through classrooms, the cafeteria and hallways of the building on Dec. 6, 1989. They were killed in an anti-feminist rampage, which remains Canada’s deadliest shooting.

Geneviève Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Haviernick, Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault and Annie Turcotte were gunned down that day.

The Order of the White Rose was created to honour the memories of the bright and talented students who weren’t afforded the opportunity to work in their fields and whose lives were cut short that evening.

Ducharme, who is the fifth recipient of the award, is ambitious, creative and determined to flourish in engineering.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in 2015, Ducharme headed to Polytechnique to begin her graduate studies in engineering physics. As she continues, she is set on attracting more women to her field.

In order to do that, Ducharme spearheaded events to encourage women to pursue engineering and became a research aide at the Chaire de Leadership en Enseignment-Femmes et Organisations.

Ducharme explained she was overwhelmed when she learned she was awarded the Order of the White Rose. While she is happy for her efforts to be recognized, she knows that 14 women in 1989 were denied the same right to pursue their ambitions.

“I was also humbled and sad because it’s so tragic, especially this year because it’s the 30th anniversary,” she said.

As a skilled concert pianist and engineering student, Ducharme is focused on her university studies for now. Afterwards, she plans to be a research and development engineer.

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