Feb. 10, 2022Print | PDF
Today marks the International Day for Women and Girls in Science. This is a time to reflect on the gender gaps in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and re-commit to supporting the women in these fields and the next generation of women scientists.
Just last month, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of Dr. Roberta Bondar becoming the first Canadian woman to journey to space. For many woman scientists – including myself – her eight-day mission in 1992 felt like a giant leap forward for women in STEM. However, three decades on, women continue to be underrepresented in space travel, when fewer than one-fifth of those on space missions have been women.
This is one micro example of a systemic challenge in many of the STEM fields – the persistently low number of women who work in fields like engineering and computer science. There is a significant body of research that has been undertaken over the years to understand why there is a dearth of women entering these professions and why they also leave them in greater numbers than men. This research guides efforts in recruiting and retaining women in STEM. For instance, we know that women role models and mentorship are critical to having girls become interested in these careers and feel empowered to pursue them.
This is why Laurier’s Centre for Women in Science was created. The centre, headed by Dr. Shohini Ghose, the Ontario NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, provides informal networking, research, workshops and academic supports to students. It also supports programming and outreach to elementary and secondary schools. Last year, on this day, the centre launched WinSights, a site featuring resources for inclusive science that is curated by Laurier graduate students.
The centre marks its 10th anniversary this year. While I am a founder of WinS and incredibly proud of the work that is done there, I am hopeful that one day the work of the centre will no longer be necessary.
In addition to the excellent programming that WinS offers, there are faculty and staff across Laurier who are working to support and recognize the achievements of women in STEM. Today, for example, offices across the university have coordinated to organize a panel discussion with Black women in science. Leveraging the Brilliance and Energy of African Women in Engineering and Math features accomplished women in their fields who are serving as role models and mentors for the next generation of women scientists.
There are a myriad of reasons why it is important to highlight the achievements of women in STEM and offer support and mentorship to the women entering these fields. By increasing the number of women entering these fields and ensuring they do not leave them, we will be introducing new insights and perspectives to research and innovation, which will lead to new discoveries.
One driving vision for Laurier’s campus in Milton is to intentionally create programming and supports to attract and retain women in the sciences. The campus will have a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) focus, meaning the STEM programming will integrate the arts—enhancing the program by including a focus on better understanding the human context in which science is done and has its impacts. I am very excited to welcome this first cohort of students in the fall of 2024.
There is still much work to be done to ensure everyone has equal access and opportunity in the STEM fields, however, I am encouraged by Laurier’s faculty, staff and students, who are working every day to inspire change and challenge the status quo. On the International Day for Women and Girls in Science, let’s celebrate our women in STEM and reflect on how we can support them in their work.
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