CCWESTT 2022 – Bold Actions to Accelerate Systemic Change

Members of the SCWIST team recently joined over 300 STEM leaders and organizations from across Canada to participate in the CCWESTT 2022 bi-annual conference held in Halifax. SCWIST is an active member of CCWESTT (Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology) and this year’s conference theme was “Reach for the Stars: Creating Impact Together” with its logo representing Bellatrix – the female warrior. The conference focused on sharing research, best practices and resources to accelerate systemic change to advance more women in STEM and trades.

Several keynote speakers shared their lived experiences and insights to stimulate new ways of thinking and acting – including breaking down barriers for women in trades, inclusion across intersections of race and gender, and the right IDEA: doing inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility right. Conference presentations centred on themes of intersectionality, building better allies, inclusive leadership, outreach, recruitment, retention, and culture transformation. Conference presenters came from diverse backgrounds representing organizations across Canada working to accelerate change.

Ronel Alberts, Director of Women’s Programs at SCWIST, shared her insights: “For our new SCWIST portfolio focusing on Women’s Programs, this was an ideal opportunity to meet with leaders and collaborators of underrepresented groups across Canada. I could make real connections with key organizations that will support our vision and mission going forward.” 

The participation of SCWIST team members at CCWESTT 2022 was made possible through our SCALE and STEM Forward projects supported by Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).   

The Honourable Minister Marci Ien from WAGE provided opening remarks for the pan-Canadian conference from her office in Ottawa, and a variety of local, regional and national government officials actively engaged in all the conference activities. 

CCWESTT 2022 was kick-started with an invigorating Policy Forum to generate bold actions to accelerate change. The Policy Forum facilitators encouraged over 100 participants to freshen their thinking on solutions that will accelerate change – and that it “takes a system to change a system!”. Cheryl Kristiansen was a table facilitator during the forum and the SCWIST team spread out across the various discussion groups to create more connections and engage new organizations in policy discussions. Our SCWIST member Rajni Ratti from Halifax joined the team to provide her perspectives and actions for change. The overriding message from the Policy Forum was that we need to ensure ALL voices are heard and that we need to choose bold actions to create the change that is needed.

SCWIST Director of Policy and Impact Melanie Ratnam provided context to the 4-hour Policy Forum collaborative process: “We worked together in groups to voice the type of policy reform that would be needed to shift systems in Canada for women in SETT (science, engineering, trades and technology). What manifested was an incredible picture of reformative policies that captured the needs of women in SETT and STEM from coast to coast. As we went through rounds of ideation and discussion, the forum culminated in participants voting on the top three policy areas that CCWESTT will focus on to accelerate change.”

SCWIST volunteer Rajni Ratti shared the impacts of the conference learning experience: “Attending CCWESTT 2022 was a very enriching experience as it broadened my thought spectrum and provided me with the opportunity to understand the diverse perspectives of women and their allies in SETT. It was an experience of ineffable significance as I could meet my fellow colleagues from SCWIST, in person, for the first time through this platform. I am grateful to SCWIST for providing me with this opportunity. I felt motivated meeting empowered women from different backgrounds. The overall energy of the event was contagious and inspiring. The most important lesson I learned is that the various challenges faced by women and their allies in SETT cannot be solved in silos. On the contrary, a systems thinking approach is the need of the hour to address these issues in a sustainable manner.”

The CCWESTT 2022 conference included a presentation by SCWIST Project Manager Cheryl Kristiansen on our Make DIVERSITY Possible Program that helps STEM organizations attract diverse talent and create inclusive workplace cultures where everyone can thrive. SCWIST volunteer Anja Lanz provided highlights of SCWIST collaborative partnerships and collective action.

SCWIST volunteer Anja Lanz shared her reflections: “CCWESTT conference brings together amazing collaborators and impactful organizations in STEM and SETT. It is quite apparent to me that much work for gender equality still needs to be accomplished in Canada, and having the CCWESTT conference to bring ideas and research into one space is equally important and necessary. I look forward to continuing the impact we are all making for the next generation of STEM and SETT professionals.”  

Professional development workshops were also offered as part of CCWEST2022, including a focus on respectful and inclusive workplaces, moving from difficult to effective conversations, you as a brand, and writing compelling commentary.

Jasmine Parmar, SCWIST Director of Marketing emphasized: “The conference provided plenty of opportunities for us to connect with like-minded individuals that are keen and passionate to identify solutions to retain women in STEM. The Informed Opinions workshop was an engaging and intimate space where Shari taught practical ways that I can help amplify the voice of our SCWIST organization.”

Jasmine, Cheryl and Anja also participated in the CCWESTT AGM held during the conference and helped celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the CCWESTT organization, along with other members from coast to coast. The next steps for the SCWIST team are to share key learnings from all the concurrent presentations held during the conference, follow up on the numerous national connections made and participate in the CCWESTT-led systemic change working group to analyze the policy forum outcomes and prioritize the next steps. Stay tuned for future updates!