CCWESTT 2024: Charting a Course – Navigating Systemic Change

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Navigating Systemic Change

Overcoming the systemic barriers that prevent gender equity in science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and the trades is crucial for fostering innovation, economic growth and social justice.

This formidable challenge didn’t daunt the hundreds of minds that came together for CCWESTT’s (Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology) biennial conference, Charting a Course – Navigating Systemic Change. Building on the work done at the 2022 conference, the 2024 conference utilized the knowledge and experience of 30 years of conferences to focus on how to overcome systemic barriers to achieve gender equity in STEM and the trades.

Much work is being done in this area, as the conference hosted a policy forum, 54 sessions, 4 keynote speakers, networking opportunities and even a live podcast recording.

“It takes a system to change a system.”

Cheryl Kristiansen, SCWIST’s Senior Project Manager, facilitated a table during the policy forum. “It was very inspiring to be a table facilitator and learn from the diverse perspectives around the table,” she said. “Our group focused on collaborative partnerships to drive systems change and everyone came away with concrete actions to take on a personal, team and organizational level. The most impactful part of each session was hearing the lived experiences of each presenter and realizing that these systemic barriers still exist and occur regularly – preventing women in STEM from having a sense of belonging and inclusion in the workplace. It is imperative that we continue to push forward – to learn, to collaborate, and to act to change the system so that everyone can thrive.”

Several keynote speakers spoke about their experiences as women in male-dominated industries and the effect that systemic barriers and gender inequality had on their career trajectories. Conference presentations brought unique ideas to the discussion of how to ensure there is gender equality in STEM and the trades, including fostering male allyship, fixing toxic workplace cultures to prevent women from leaving uncomfortable environments and implementing flexible workplace policies for busy parents. Several insightful reports and studies focused on gender inclusion in STEM and the trades were also presented, which also recommended evidence-based solutions and actions to take.

Tackling Gender-Based Violence in STEM Workplaces

SCWIST’s Cheryl Kristiansen and Claudia Rivera also presented at the conference, sharing highlights of systemic change projects that SCWIST has led, along with actions to accelerate gender equity in STEM. They outlined key strategies and components of SCWIST’s newest project, Agency and Action to Prevent Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in STEM Workplaces.

Cheryl and Claudia present at the CCWESTT Conference.

“We were excited to present the framework of our upcoming toolkit, part of the Agency and Action Project, which is designed to unravel promising practices for preventing and responding to GBV in STEM workplaces,” said Claudia Rivera, SCWIST’s GBV Prevention Training and Resource Coordinator. “These practices, meticulously shaped through insights from the SAFE STEM Workplaces initiative—a pioneering effort in Canadian Trade and STEM environments—serve as a practical guide to equip organizations with the tools needed to foster a culture of respect, integrity, and accountability.”

SCWIST will collaborate with partners to scale multiple promising practices throughout the Agency and Action project, such as engaging men to address hierarchical power issues and guided discussions to build empathy and cognitive-behavioural changes. The ultimate goal is to create environments where the spectrum of GBV is recognized and not tolerated. This project will address the intersectional needs of equity-deserving groups, including youth, Indigenous, Black, racialized, newcomers and 2SLGBTQ+ across Canada.

Cross-Country Connections

The Victoria-based conference was an inspiring experience that highlighted the power of community and collaboration. Meeting so many passionate individuals from across Canada and hearing about their work in advancing gender equity was incredibly motivating for our team.

“Engaging with like-minded individuals and organizations focused on the topic of ‘Navigating Systemic Change’ was truly inspiring,” said Keely Wallace, SCWIST’s Strategic Partnership Coordinator. “We had the opportunity to share our projects, ideas, successes and hopes for systemic changes we can see in the near future.”

“The connections we made and the stories we shared will help fuel our efforts as we continue to push for systemic change in STEM and the trades,” added Ashley van der Pouw Kraan, SCWIST’s Marketing Manager. “Together, we are creating a brighter, more inclusive future!”

Diversity drives innovation

Diverse perspectives enhance problem-solving, increase creativity and drive the technological advancements that lead to sustainable solutions. Gender equity ensures that all talents are utilized, reducing skills shortages and promoting a more inclusive workforce. Addressing historical injustices will pave the way for equitable opportunities, empowering individuals and strengthening communities. It is by dismantling these systemic barriers that we build a more resilient and forward-thinking society.

We are grateful to CCWESTT for creating the opportunity to connect with diverse individuals and organizations dedicated to addressing gender inequities in STEM and Trade workplaces.

The participation of SCWIST team members at the 2024 CCWESTT Conference was made possible by the generous support of Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE).

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