In 1969, Jitka Prochazka arrived in Vancouver from Prague and became the first woman to study civil engineering at UBC. On one of her first days at school, a secretary suggested that the program would be too difficult for her, and she wouldn’t be able to do it – but Jitka said: “I think I can,” and persevered despite a heavy workload that was made even more difficult by her limited ability to speak English.
A pivotal moment came in her third year when the engineering disciplines separated and she was able to bond with her civil engineering colleagues. At Christmas, the men surprised her with a red engineering sweater. “I was speechless. It was a symbol of belonging. I practically lived in that sweater,” Jitka recalled.
In 1973, she became the first woman to graduate with a Civil Engineering degree from UBC. She later obtained her P.Eng. designation in Ontario and worked for several decades in facilities management for Transport Canada and NAV CANADA.