For her work supporting members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ engineering community across Canada, McMaster University Materials Engineering and Management (’18) grad Vanessa Raponi was celebrated with a prestigious award at a gala in Toronto on Nov. 3.
Achievement of the Year was awarded to Raponi and her EngiQueers Canada co-founder Alexander Dow by the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE). This honour pays tribute to an endeavour that has made a significant, positive impact on society, industry, and/or engineering. Past winners have included Bombardier and Siemens Canada.
“This award is exceptionally meaningful to me and all of us at EngiQueers Canada,” says Raponi. “It signifies the profession experiencing a cultural shift towards inclusion, equity and diversity in a big way.”
EngiQueers Canada was formed in 2013 after five students from McMaster Engineering attended Toronto Pride. Inspired by the movement, they started a student club – EngiQueers at Mac – that influenced the development of 31 similar groups in nine provinces – now organized under the umbrella of EngiQueers Canada.
The non-profit organization brings together queer engineering students and allies through events, provides dozens of inclusivity trainings each year, representation at Pride parades with information booths and runs a nationwide Valentine’s Day fundraising campaign for EngiQueers.
At an inaugural EngiQueers national conference in January, 22 universities from coast to coast were represented. “The students and the profession are moving in the right direction,” says Raponi.
Presenting the award to Raponi and Dow was Nasim Paknejad, a McMaster Bachelor of Technology – Biotechnology program and former president of McMaster’s EngiQueers chapter (2021-2023).
“Vanessa is a very strong leader that doesn’t let societal and cultural norms get in her way,” says Paknejad. “Thanks to her, she has catalyzed the creation of other EngiQueers chapters across the country along with EngiQueers Canada, helping hundreds if not thousands of students feel seen and heard during their time at university, myself included.”
Raponi remains connected to EngiQueers Canada, providing mentorship to its current executive as a member of its Board of Directors. She also works as Manager, Manufacturing Engineering at Spin Master – a global toy and game company.