“Be a ladder, be a lamp or be a lifeboat.” This is Stephanie Thompson’s motto in her work as a passionate engineer and community leader who increases awareness for engineering, manufacturing and skilled trades careers for young women.
Stephanie grew up as the oldest of four children in Ottawa. Her interest in a career in science was sparked by an invitation by Mrs. Williams, her Grade 11 physics and chemistry teacher, to an overnight trip to the Chalk River Laboratories in Deep River, Ontario, where she saw nuclear physicists at work. “My teacher had a profound effect on me by recognizing my potential in science,” says Stephanie.
Stephanie liked chemistry and chose to study chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo after doing her research and learning that engineers had the best capacity for earning. Although successful at the traditional model of learning in high school, she found university to be humbling. “I had to figure things out. How to be creative and inventive and how to learn. And this prepared me for work after graduation,” she notes.
During her 22-year career at General Motors in St. Catharines, Ontario, Stephanie has worked in a range of engineering roles, including Launch Process Engineer, Process Engineer and Production Group Leader, and was the first woman to serve as an Engineering Manager. “I have been most successful when surrounded by talented and smart people, allowing me to find my space in a way that nobody else was doing.”
Through her extensive community outreach, Stephanie promotes engineering and other STEM fields as a storyteller, problem solver and a breaker of barriers. It is through these skills that she allows others, especially women, to see what they do not see in themselves.
In 2019, Stephanie launched the social enterprise STEM by Steph. STEMbySteph.com offers a range of activities, including a workshop series that brings women together to explore STEM careers. These workshops are led by women and focus on topics including Chemistry, Automotive, Environment, Space, Robotics, and Electrical. STEM by Steph also offers pro-bono career coaching for high school students.
Stephanie believes that a major barrier for girls pursuing trades and STEM fields is the lack of female STEM role models. In response to that need, STEM by Steph workshops offer a frequently sold-out social event where other female STEM professionals join Stephanie to teach young women and their mothers in a fun, camaraderie-filled atmosphere. “If you want more young women to be interested in non-traditional roles, involve their mothers,” notes Stephanie. “You cannot be what you do not see, and a major influence in every girl’s life is her mother.”
As a FIRST Robotics Mentor, Stephanie has run FIRST Robotics teams at local schools since 2005 including leading the Niagara FIRST Lego League as Tournament Director. She recently connected engineers and electricians from General Motors with over 200 students from across Ontario for a day-long workshop on Design Thinking about the future of automotive.
In addition to her mentoring and community outreach work, Stephanie is active in the Niagara Region as a member of the Brock University Board of Trustees, a member of the Niagara College Industrial Automation Program Advisory Committee, the inaugural Chair of the Brock University Engineering Industry Partners Committee and Director of Innovate Niagara.
Stephanie’s professional and community work has been recognized by the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce as the 2018 winner of the Women in Business Award for Science and Technology. She was awarded the 2020 Alumni Achievement Medal for Community Service by the University of Waterloo and was included in the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023, when she was inducted into the Hall of Fame
Stephanie’s impact on the community is perhaps best summarized by Nancy Watt, Advisory Board member for the internationally recognized magazine, Enterprising Women. “When I asked Stephanie to help build a STEM event on behalf of the Young Enterprising Women Foundation, I had no idea she was about to deliver a record-breaking, precedent-setting, multi-media-covered event that garnered an article in Enterprising Women. Stephanie is a connector. She sees potential and opportunities in others, puts them together and watches synergy take hold. She puts forward-thinking strategy to use, analyzing and achieving the best possible outcome for those who know her.”
You can see more of Stephanie’s career and impact in the visualization below.
Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!