Dr. Gina Cody is the first woman to ever receive a PhD in building engineering at Concordia University in Montréal, QC. She is an engineer, former corporate executive and donor to the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science at Concordia University.
What advice would you offer women pursuing leadership positions in their fields?
Don’t be afraid. Work hard at what you do and believe you can achieve your goals. To succeed, you have to persevere and always be prepared. When you are prepared, people will notice that you have the right answers and know your subject matter. Hard work got me to where I am today.
What is your definition of success?
My first success was becoming the first woman at Concordia University to graduate with a PhD in Building Engineering, during a time when there were very few women studying engineering. I was able to work hard towards my goals and achieve them. My next accomplishment was having a long career as a business leader in my chosen profession. That success has allowed me to give back to my community and be a positive example to the women and girls that follow a similar path.
If you could start your career again, what is one thing you would do differently?
I would do it all over again. I am lucky in that I didn’t have people telling me ‘no’. Both my parents were incredibly supportive, and higher education was always stressed in my family as the key to a successful future. I was the youngest of five children and my mother always made sure her two daughters understood the importance of education – and that stuck with me throughout my lifetime. The more I educated myself at school and in my field, the better I was prepared to deal with anything that came my way.
What is the most enriching part about being a leader in higher education and STEM?
Role models are so important for inspiring young people and we need more visibility for women in STEM fields. That is why, following my gift [of $15 million] to Concordia, it was so important that my faculty become the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science. I want young girls and women to know that there are no fields of study and work where they cannot excel, thrive and rise to the top. Boys and men need women role models to understand that there is no such thing as a “man’s job.” My dream is for a future that is inclusive, diverse and equal – a world where women, people of colour and other minorities have access to the same opportunities I did.
What are the keys to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion in higher education and STEM?
Canada is facing a crisis that virtually no one is talking about. According to a report by Engineers Canada, we could be short as many as 100,000 engineers by 2025. And Canada isn’t alone. According to the Hays Global Skills Index, most of the world is facing a shortage of engineers for many of the same reasons. Fortunately, there is a solution – and it’s a relatively simple one. Canada needs more women engineers. I want to continue to advocate for women and immigrants – particularly those studying in STEM fields. I will support these causes until we have a society that truly embraces diversity, inclusion and equality. I am committed to this for my daughters. I am committed to this for girls and women around the world.