Breaking barriers: Peggy Simons, a role model for women in engineering

Margaret (Peggy) SimonsBack in the mid-1960s, Margaret (Peggy) Simons (ChemE 6T8) was the only female ChemE student in her class. However, the number of female engineering students was actually beginning to increase at that time and their abilities were being recognized and respected.

Despite being the only woman in her class, Peggy was readily accepted by her peers who included her right away as part of their community. Entering her career though, she did face a few challenges (maternity leave was a new thing). Peggy gracefully overcame hurdles with experience, and the kindness and mentoring of colleagues and supervisors.

Her career has been nothing short of exceptional. Peggy’s determination to excel in process operations landed her a job at the prestigious Gulf Canada Research Centre, where she honed her skills in the Pilot Plant. She quickly advanced to operations and supervisory roles in a refinery setting, where her dedication and expertise earned her accolades from colleagues and industry experts alike. Peggy’s thirst for knowledge drove her to pursue an Executive MBA in 1987, which opened up new opportunities for her in Western Canada. She eventually rose to the rank of Vice President at Petro-Canada, cementing her reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the energy sector. But Peggy’s appetite for challenge didn’t stop there. She went on to pursue a second career at the University of Calgary, where she served as Associate Dean for Student Affairs in the Schulich School of Engineering and left a lasting legacy of excellence, exceptional leadership, and an unwavering commitment to education.

“We are proud of the progress she made in her field and the trail she blazed for future female engineers. Simply by challenging gender stereotypes and demonstrating that women are capable of excelling in engineering, Peggy has inspired and motivated countless other women,” says Professor Ramin Farnood, Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry at U of T.

Today, women make up a growing percentage of the engineering workforce, and their presence is helping to drive innovation and improve diversity in the field. Looking back, Peggy realizes that she broke barriers not only in her field but also in her personal life. She balanced a successful career with a happy family life and is now enjoying her retirement with her husband of 55 years, three children, and seven beautiful grandkids.

Peggy is now gearing up to return to the St. George Campus for the Alumni Reunion on Saturday, June 3, where she’ll be reconnecting with fellow members from ChemE 6T8. And the best part? You don’t have to be a graduate of ChemE 6T8 to join in on the fun! In fact, all ChemE alumni from years ending in 3 or 8 are welcome to attend.

The department is pulling out all the stops with a mix-and-mingle session in the undergrad common room (WB238) from 1-2pm, followed by an exclusive one-hour lab tour departing from the same location at 2pm. Don’t miss out on the chance to catch up with old friends and see the latest advancements in ChemE. Be sure to register now to secure your spot!