Tara Gholami, winner of the first Order of the White Rose scholarship
At a young age, like many other children, Tara Gholami dreamed of travelling to the moon. “I wanted to be an astronaut! In fourth grade, I wrote a 99-page paper on the solar system,” she says, laughing. Although her dream of space travel did not materialize, the young scholarship winner is a shining star all the same, with an exemplary academic record. Her always-excellent grades have earned her numerous scholarships and awards. Among the leaders in her class during her undergraduate studies in chemical engineering, and even after switching to mechanical engineering, the 23-year-old has earned the highest distinction of the Schulich School of Engineering at the University of Calgary. It is this brilliant path that propelled her to the gates of prestigious Stanford University in California.
A determined go-getter, Tara Gholami did not shy away when she realized that girls are relatively few in engineering faculties. Outraged by the comments of a friend–a girl, no less!–who accepted the idea that men were better than women in science and math, she pledged never to be brought down by gender misconceptions. In her native Iran, where gender equality is far from being achieved, she nevertheless grew up in an open-minded family where boys and girls played with trucks and dolls. Ironically, it was when she arrived in Canada at age 11 that she felt a gender inequality. “For teamwork, I realized that I was not considered the equal of a male and that I had to prove that my ideas were as valuable as theirs.”
In this sense, her mother, also an engineer, was, and remains, a model. It was she who led her family to North America to give them a better future. With perseverance and despite the language barrier, she found a job in her field. For Tara, her mother perfectly embodies the values she wishes to convey: that women can be successful in a technical profession still dominated by men while advocating for elegance and sensitivity. “If only we could show girls that engineering is not anti-women,” says Tara.
She conveyed this message to high school girls when tutoring them in math and science to help pay for her studies. She spoke especially about the importance of believing in oneself and not imposing barriers before even trying. “I tell them to explore, enjoy their creativity. And never give up on a career that drives you because it is believed that women have no place in it,” says Tara, who practises classical guitar in her spare time. Where does she see herself in five years? Working on a PhD or in the medical industry on robotic surgery. “I want to make a difference in the world. Although I know I must work hard to get there.”
Tara Gholami: a star with both feet on the ground.