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Valerie Davidson, B.Eng. '75

(Chemical Engineering) | Big Idea: Blazing a trail for female engineers

As a student, a researcher and an academic, Valerie Davidson has led a pioneering life.

In 1971, Valerie Davidson was one of four women registered in first year engineering.

Oddly, that fact gave her some comfort when she arrived for orientation. At least she wouldn’t be alone. Or so she thought.

“As I walked around the corner of the engineering building, all I could see was a large crowd of males, but it was too late,” she recalls. “I had been spotted.”

“It turns out I was the only female student in year one to attend. So I was asked to sing a solo first verse of the Engineers’ hymn and that was it. No further embarrassment.”

Not surprisingly, her visibility continued throughout her McMaster studies. And those early years did have their challenges for females.

“At that time there were only a few women’s washrooms in the engineering building,” recalls Davidson. “I do remember climbing at least two flights of stairs from our basement study room to reach a women’s washroom, and I often thought of using a can of black spray paint to mark “wo” on a few of the men’s facilities.”

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