Expert Spotlight

Expert Spotlight: Jeannette Montufar, FCAE

Jeannette Montufar is founding partner and CEO of MORR Transportation Consulting Ltd., a highly-specialized transportation engineering and technology firm in Winnipeg. She is also co-founder of TRAINFO Corp., a Winnipeg-based transportation technology firm. For nearly 15 years she was professor in civil engineering at the University of Manitoba.

Dr. Montufar has received over 15 awards for her contributions to transportation engineering, including a YMCA/YWCA Women of Distinction Award, an Engineers Canada Award for the Support of Women in Engineering, the Institute of Transportation Engineers Wilbur Smith Distinguished Transportation Educator Award, and the Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba Leadership Award.

She is currently Chair of CCA’s Expert Panel on Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and Shared Mobility.

Q: What appealed to you about volunteering your time and expertise with the CCA?

I have always been very committed and devoted to advancing the engineering profession. It is my strong belief that engineers are enablers of change and we can change the world if we show up. Volunteering my time is the best way for me to change the world one hour at a time. I also have a strong interest in the CAV topic, through my current professional work and research, so, this opportunity was ideal for me in terms of bringing together something of significant technical interest and the opportunity to contribute to advancing the profession.

Q: What are some of your reflections on the expert panel process so far?

It has been a real pleasure and honour to work with the CCA on this project. I have been very impressed with the level of professionalism demonstrated by all staff members involved in the process. It has always been my opinion that the tone for an organization’s culture is set right at the top of the organization and there’s no doubt in my mind that the CCA is very fortunate to have great leadership. With respect to the process, I think the CCA does a great job ensuring that panel members provide an unbiased contribution to each project. There is lots of attention to detail in the selection of these experts to ensure scientific rigour and objectivity for each report, further advancing and facilitating a data-driven, evidence-based approach to decision making.

Q: What’s an assessment topic/question you would love to work on, if you could choose anything?

An assessment topic: the implications of under-representation of women and people of Indigenous ancestry in engineering. Currently, women account for around 12% of practicing engineers and Indigenous people account for less than 1%. This under-representation must be negatively affecting every aspect of the engineering process from planning to design, construction, etc., which then has ripple effects into our economy and society.

Q: Did you always see yourself going into engineering? If not, what other career path(s) did you envision?

I did not see myself going into engineering. My dream was always to become a human rights lawyer. But I was going into grade 10 when my family immigrated to Canada and I didn’t speak any English. A school counsellor suggested engineering because I was “really good at math and didn’t really need English.” The rest is history. So, while I went into engineering for the wrong reasons, I am very glad I did. I fell in love with the profession along the way and have worked tirelessly to advance knowledge within it. And by the way, English is absolutely essential in engineering so nobody should ever think that if you like math and science but struggle in English then engineering is for you.

Q: You’ve done a lot to encourage more women to enter engineering and in 2018 you were recognized by Engineers Canada with the Award for the Support of Women in the Engineering Profession. How have you seen things change for women in engineering over the course of your career? What more do you think needs to be done?

In my 25 years of practice, I have seen lots of change with respect to women in the profession. I have seen growth in the number of women who pursue engineering as a career. I have also seen more action by various organizations to actively recruit young women into engineering. These are all positive actions that are helping to move the needle in the right direction, and given this momentum, I think there are clear opportunities to start looking into improving retention. I think that as a profession we have been more successful at attracting women than at retaining women in engineering. There have been studies that have found that about 40% of women who earn engineering degrees either leave or never even enter the workforce. This is quite problematic because, at this rate, it will take a long time before we see that necessary critical mass of female engineers in the profession to actually influence how engineering works.

Q: On a lighter note, is there anything you are reading or watching for fun right now?

I like to watch a lot of documentaries and like to read history books. I’ve been reading One long night by Andrea Pitzer, which presents a global history of concentration camps. And for more relaxation, I’ve been watching Narcos. Quite an interesting show! Having said this, what I really do to relax is I do pottery and can spend hours in the studio having fun.