François Plourde, BEng 84, has always been driven to give back to the community — and his motivations for doing so have only continued to grow over the course of his lifetime.
Upon his retirement in 2022, the former CEO and president of CIMA+ engineering company created the François Plourde Scholarships for Women in Engineering and EDI Programming at the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science. Backed by a career that has spanned nearly four decades, and the acumen of a forward-thinking builder, Plourde’s $100,000 gift to the Campaign for Concordia is a pledge to support the next generation of women in engineering.
‘The strengths of diversity and inclusion’
Adopted at birth at a time when forced adoption was common, Plourde was forever moved by the compassion of his adoptive parents. They taught him and his adoptive brother the value of exposure to multiple worldviews — an experience reinforced during his years as a student at Concordia and a tenet that he adhered to as he progressed from classroom to boardroom.
“I learned quickly that diversity is important, even at an early age. It was one of the principles in growing the firm — seeing the strengths of diversity and inclusion,” says Plourde.
He joined CIMA+ in 1989, became a member of the executive committee in 1996, and served as vice-president of Transportation from 2000 until his appointment to president and CEO in 2014. During that 14-year period, Plourde expanded the department from 50 to 450 employees across Canada.
“Back in 2000, there were around 50 partners. I was the first to integrate a woman as a partner in my division. Now, 30 per cent of the partnership is women,” he says. Today, CIMA+ stands as one of Canada’s largest private consulting engineering firms, and just this year, was the first in the industry to receive the Women in Governance Parity Certification.
Relative to the general population, women are vastly underrepresented in engineering. According to Engineers Canada’s 2022 National Membership Report, women accounted for 14.4 per cent of total national membership and 19.8 per cent of newly-licensed engineers in Canada in 2021. Plourde wants to help change that.
“When you put different approaches together at a table, you come up with amazing solutions,” he says. “Gender and cultural diversity lead to a better performing and more open company, which is also very important for younger generations.”