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By: Lauren Beals

When she was a student, Hoda ElMaraghy ventured where no woman had before. In 1976, she became the first woman to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering at McMaster. What followed was an esteemed career laced with achievement and novelty. This includes becoming the first woman to be appointed as faculty member in mechanical engineering at McMaster, and the first woman to hold the position of Dean of Engineering when she joined the University of Windsor in 1994.

She has since published over 380 papers in professional journals, holds a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Manufacturing Systems and is currently a fellow of the Canadian Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, and the International Academy for Production Engineering.

On Jan. 20 her incredible achievements were recognized as one of 25 Order of Ontario recipients, the highest honors in the province. ElMaraghy was the only engineer recognized amongst this year’s recipients.

“I was indeed thrilled,” said ElMaraghy. “It was great to have my work and leadership acknowledged […] being invested in the Order of Ontario is one of my proudest moments.”

Like any true pioneer, ElMaraghy was left to navigate a challenging field in a time when there were very few females in engineering. “At the beginning of my career there were very few women engineers, and being the first [PhD and faculty] was certainly a novelty. There was a great pressure to prove one’s abilities.”

Despite the odds, ElMaraghy overcame preconceptions by demonstrating excellence in her abilities, going on to become the founding director of the Flexible Manufacturing Systems here at McMaster and establishing herself as a powerhouse in manufacturing and systems design.

Named Hamilton’s Woman of the Year in the Workplace in 1990, ElMaraghy has seen the positive influence women leaders can have across genders. “Women role models in academia and in the corporate world are very important not only for women but also for men who are expected to work with and sometimes be supervised by women,” said ElMaraghy.

When she was a student, Hoda ElMaraghy ventured where no woman had before. In 1976, she became the woman graduate to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering at McMaster. What followed was an esteemed career laced with achievement and novelty.

Right now, she serves as a faculty member as an engineering professor at the University of Windsor and is a collaborator with the Canadian government. ElMaraghy thinks should play a crucial role in the advancement of women in academia and the workplace. “Universities and employers must put in place measures to remove clear and hidden barriers for women’s progress in these fields and promote equal pay for work of equal value,” she said. “They must offer them leadership training and opportunities for progress.”

Looking ahead, ElMaraghy is confident that women can continue to succeed in emerging STEM fields but deserve the right blend of advocacy.

“Women are capable of tackling many challenges in engineering but they need more support, encouragement and recognition,” she said.

Photo Credit: University of Windsor

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