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Laurier Senate approves new Centre for Women in Science
Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
May 1/12| For Immediate Release
Shohini Ghose, Associate Professor
Kevin Crowley, Director, Communications & Public Affairs
WATERLOO – The Senate of Wilfrid Laurier University has approved the establishment of a Centre for Women in Science at the university.
“The sciences aren’t attracting as many female students as they should, even after all this time, both in North America and around the world,” said Abby Goodrum, Laurier’s vice-president: research. “This new centre will help us to better understand the reasons for the gender disparity in the sciences and to promote and support the scientific careers of female researchers.”
The centre’s mission is to build a strong community for women in science as well as the mathematical social sciences through research, action and communication. It will provide grants to female scientists and to scholars studying the role of women in the sciences. In addition, it will organize seminars, workshops and conferences, develop partnerships with other educational institutions and with industry, facilitate networking and mentoring opportunities for female scientists, and support community outreach to female youth considering careers in science.
“Laurier is a university that puts a premium on community, and on doing good work not just in the classroom but outside it as well,” said Physics & Computer Science Professor Shohini Ghose, who is spearheading the centre. “The idea of a centre that can help to build the community of female scientists goes together very well with that. It’s a natural fit.”
Ghose says that Laurier’s location in Waterloo Region is an additional asset, given the area’s wealth of scientific organizations. The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the School of Engineering & Information Technology at Conestoga College have already expressed interest in partnerships, as have a number of other local schools and technology companies, she notes.
In 2008, female students in natural sciences and engineering made up less than 15 per cent of undergraduates in Canada. A recent study published in the journal Science estimated that it could take another 100 years before women hold 50 per cent of university faculty positions in science and engineering in the United States.
“It’s a complex problem that’s in part related to women’s perceptions of identity – which can be influenced by the community, the high-school classroom and many other factors,” said Ghose. “What we can do is work to create an environment that is supportive of real choices.”
To date, approximately 17 female academics from Laurier and nearby institutions have signed on as members of the centre. Its first activities, including grants to researchers, are scheduled to begin in the early fall.
“We have momentum, interest and an ideal location,” said Ghose. “Now it’s time to get to work.”