Girls do Science Too! Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Written by: Dr. Anju Bajaj STEM Educator, Associate Principal Catholic School Commission, Research Scientist in Cell Pathophysiology and PM National Teaching Award Recipient and Camila Castaneda SCWIST Communications and Events Coordinator.

 

Today, scientists and researchers from diverse backgrounds must unite in the fight against COVID-19. During these vital times science and technology are pushing boundaries and evolving rapidly. We figure an equal number of men and women are at the forefront of this movement. Although there has been an improvement with respect to gender equality in STEM over the past years, reality is still underwhelming compared to expected numbers. 

On Feb 11th, the United Nations and partners worldwide will mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The day focuses on the reality that science and gender equality are both vital for the achievement of international development goals. This celebration puts a great focus on successful women and girls in science.

 

Women make up less than 30% of all researchers worldwide.

This statistic is staggering considering women make up half the world’s population. Moreover, women make up only 35% of those studying STEM programs.

Some explanations for this can be expectations that women will not do well in science. The reduced number of mentors and role models in the field. Sometimes women who choose an ‘unnatural’ career can face hostility. Even women academics may find their workplace is not always kind. All this in addition to the barriers that exist almost exclusively for women. For example, unequal pay, unfair chances at promotions and the lack of policies securing a job through pregnancy or other personal reasons.

Science students performing an eye dissection.

What can be done?

It is unreasonable to expect that gender equality will exist without action. A step forward is building awareness and celebrating women in STEM. The United Nations General Assembly first introduced the International Day of Women and Girls in Science back in 2015. The aim was to establish an equal participation and opportunity for women in STEM fields and empower women to pursue their ambition in science.

The celebration embraces an annual theme. Last year’s it was ‘Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth’. This topic brought attention to the necessity of women in science and gender equality to meet the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The theme of 2022 is “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: Water Unites Us”.

 

Break barriers with SCWIST

At SCWIST we run various initiatives year round to advance women in STEM. Please explore our msinfinty youth engagement programs which offer e-mentoring, Quantum Leaps conferences and workshops. As well as take a look at our STEM Diversity Champions toolkit to advocate for change. If you haven’t already you can become a member or volunteer to participate in our programs. Let’s come together to get the work done!

Dr. Bajaj in science class with her students.

Teach your child all about female scientists and support your science-loving daughter in her pursuit of a STEM career!

There are many ways you can celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science safely this year. One way is to research women’s scientific achievements through google and appreciate the involvement of women in science. This can be done with women in your own life such as daughters to discuss their ambitions in STEM and reassure them that they will have a chance at success. You can also visit WISEatlantic.ca to engage with various at-home STEM activities. However you choose to celebrate, make sure to enjoy yourself and feel proud that you are supporting women by encouraging change towards a gender equal world.