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Professional Engineers Ontario:
Diane L. Freeman, P.Eng., FEC, President

Monday, May 10, 2010

From The Globe and Mail

Diane L. Freeman, P.Eng., FEC, assumed office on May 8, 2010 as the 91st president of Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO), following her election by PEO members in 2009 to chair its Council. She is the fifth woman to be elected president of the association.

An associate with Conestoga-Rovers & Associates Ltd., working in the area of air quality, Ms. Freeman is also a City of Waterloo councillor. Dedicated to science awareness and enriching learning environments for children, she is president of the board of directors for the Butterfly Learning Centre. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, she was elected a director of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and is a member of its Large Urban Caucus. She is also the secretary of the Air and Waste Management Association (Ontario section). In 2009, Ms. Freeman was awarded the KW Oktoberfest, Rogers Women of the Year award in the Professional category.

Professional Engineers Ontario administers the Professional Engineers Act by licensing Ontario’s 73,000 professional engineers, granting temporary, limited and provisional licences to practise professional engineering, and authorizing businesses to provide engineering services to the public. It sets standards for and regulates engineering in Ontario to protect and serve the public interest. Rigorously educated, experienced, and committed to a Code of Ethics that puts the public first, licensed professional engineers can be identified by the P.Eng. after their names. Limited engineering licensees can be identified by the LEL after their names.


Woodstock woman takes the helm


Updated 3 months ago

It wasn't until she actually got to university that Diane Freeman realized there weren't a lot of other women enrolled in her engineering courses.

"My parents never, ever, ever said it was gender specific," she said in a phone interview from Toronto's Pearson Airport. "They just said engineering would be a good career. 

"My parents just didn't see barriers."

Not only did Freeman -- the adopted daughter of Betty and Fred Freeman of Woodstock -- manage to bypass these barriers but, on May 8, the 43-year-old was elected the 91st president of the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO), becoming only the fifth woman to hold the office.

Growing up in Woodstock, Freeman attended Northdale Public School, Central Public School and, later, Woodstock Collegiate Institute.

Strong in mathematics and science, Freeman was inspired by an interest test that she might be good at a career in engineering.

"That's what got me down the path," she said.

Freeman enrolled in the University of Waterloo's engineering program but, when she encountered a hurdle during the first semester, she learned a valuable lesson about gender equality.

Freeman said she had to repeat her semester and was required to have an average of 75% in order to stay in the program, but an admissions officer allowed two fellow male students to stay in the program with only 59% averages.

"I learned that there are fall fairs, spring fairs and winter fairs -- everything else is not fair," she said.

Freeman did note that, while she graduated on the Dean's Honour List, her two male schoolmates did not graduate at all.

Today, Freeman is an associate with Conestoga-Rovers and Associates Ltd., working in air quality.

She helps clients, including Firestone Textiles of Woodstock, "remain compliant with environmental regulations in the Province of Ontario."

Freeman, who is married and the mother of two boys aged 14 and 11, is also a city councillor for the City of Waterloo.

In 2001, with two young boys at home, Freeman was integral to raising $1.4 million and starting a not-for-profit charity daycare in Waterloo.

"I was motivated by an overall lack of childcare in the Province of Ontario -- there was such a great need," she said.

Today, the Butterfly Learning Centre cares for 148 children and offers The Wings of Discovery Program.

The first of it's kind in Canada, the program focuses on science and technology as a platform for teaching the early years. Right now Freeman, who was just about to board an airplane to Newfoundland to meet with geoscientists and professional engineers, is focused on her new position.

"We're working with the province on important changes to the act that governs licensed holders in the Province of Ontario," Freeman said.

Those changes include removing an exception in the act through a phased-in process that allows engineers who don't work directly with the public to be unlicensed.

"It's very, very exciting," Freeman said. "The changes will bring value to public safety."

With so much on her plate, Freeman said she uses "a lot of tools" to maintain a balance between home and work.

"I'm a very scheduled individual," she said. "Where some people schedule one or two things into their day, I schedule five."

"I'm a good multitasker."

Freeman said her children often join her on trips, even if she's just attending meetings.

"We choose to do things together," she said. "We're a very close family."

Freeman said her hope is that her story will inspire other parents to support their daughters in nontraditional career choices.

"It takes a strong parent to support a daughter as she enters into the path of a nontraditional career," she said. "I think my parents have mentored that very well."

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