Catherine Karakatsanis, BESc'83, MESc'91
Chief Operating Officer, Morrison Hershfield Group Inc.
Past President of PEO, OSPE and Engineers Canada
Ms. Karakatsanis received the Lauchland Engineering Alumni Medal in 2008.
Q & A
What makes you proud to be Canadian?
There are many things that make me proud to be Canadian, in fact I think that Canada is the best country in the world. I am especially proud, however, to live in a country that embraces a mosaic of cultures and respects diversity. I am proud that I have been allowed to carry on the legacy of my parents, they came to Canada from difficult conditions to create a better life for themselves and their children. They were able to raise their children by nurturing what they thought was the best of two cultures – the best of the Greek culture they brought with them and the best of the Canadian culture they found. I, along with all Canadians, am allowed to be exactly who I choose to be. In Canada, we respect individual rights and recognize that tolerance and diversity makes us stronger – I am very proud of that.
What do you predict for the future of women in engineering in Canada?
The future for women in engineering is very exciting. Women want to be involved in professions and organizations that are humanitarian and more socially engaging. Engineering is just that kind of a profession – in every discipline. There are wonderful career opportunities for women in these fields. Women have the capacity to gain the knowledge and skills to not only become a larger proportion of the industry, but to become leaders in the field. Today we are looking at a different paradigm of leadership, and it plays naturally to the strengths of women. The leadership skills that come naturally to women are now absolutely necessary for companies to continue to thrive. I see this daily in my role as a Consulting Engineer, women are capable, effective and inspiring leaders within our profession. It makes great business sense – women in unity with men form a powerful, strategic combination available to every business today.
The future also needs more women in the profession because Engineering is essential in securing Canada’s health, safety and economic prosperity. To do this effectively, the engineering profession must include the greatest possible range of knowledge, skills, experience and perspectives. In order to actively engage the best minds in the profession, we need to ensure a strong core of potentially different views and ways of thinking, which means ensuring more women are joining and staying in the profession, and leading it as well. Society will prosper as a result.
As you reflect on the 150 year history of Canada, what do you consider the biggest Canadian engineering accomplishment?
I cannot pick one accomplishment because almost everything we rely on to live and work across the world involves engineers and engineering. Engineering touches our lives in so many ways that it is hard to think of something that is not in some way connected to an engineer or an engineering achievement. Engineers make the world a better place to live. Engineering is essential to our health, safety and well-being, as can be seen within the ground-breaking work engineers have been a part of in major sectors including healthcare, infrastructure, and technology. Engineers’ innovative and important work is constantly inspiring changes that improve the quality of life for all each and every day and in the process are helping to secure Canada’s economic prosperity. Engineering truly makes a difference.