WISDOM is Power at the University of Manitoba

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By Abigail Plantinga Byle

Wisdom in Science: Development, Outreach (WISDOM) promotes and supports women in science and technology at the University of Manitoba. WISDOM worksto increase gender diversity, particularly in leadership roles.

WISDOM’s mission is to empower women in science, because, despite the fact that more women attend and complete university, there is still a gender gap in graduate degree programs and in senior academic leadership, especially in science and technology. WISDOM, formed in 2018,is also among the first affiliate groups of SCWIST .

Two women spearhead this effort.

Dr. Neeloffer Mookherjee, is associate professor of internal medicine and immunology, researcher at CHRIM, and the Chair of WISDOM, and Dr. Janilyn Arsenio is assistant professor of internal medicine, who is vice-chair. They work to promote women in science through a focus on inclusion and engagement, in order to increase women’s presence and visibility.

As women scientists in leadership positions themselves, they understand the vital importance of women leaders, particularly to support their advancement.

WISDOM focuses its attention and work on networking, mentorship, professional development, and advocacy for policy change that makes gender equality a requirement.

Dr. Neeloffer Mookherjee, WISDOM Co-founder and Chair

Mookherjee says, “Our goal is to address the under-representation of women in science, especially in leadership positions … We need to do a better job of providing the support, mentorship and resources to allow women to succeed, advance and lead.”

Highlighting women scientists and researchers will increase the profile of women in leadership, whether in the sciences, engineering, or technology. Accordingly, the presence of these women leaders not only advances those fields in terms of the quality and diversity of research but also encourages more women and girls to pursue careers in science and medicine.

Dr. Janilyn Arsenio, WISDOM Co-founder and Vice-Chair

Arsenio is one highlighted woman scientist, a CBC Manitoba Future 40 finalist for 2018 and a Canada Research Chair. She works in an exciting and cutting edge field within immunology, examining immune dysregulation and the role that single T cells have as functional immune regulators. Using the, most modern technology and techniques she hopes her research will help transform future therapeutic strategies to treat diseases across Canada.

Arsenio grew up in a Filipino family that encouraged her to follow her dreams. She also credits her family for her success saying, “foundational support and encouragement starts at home.”

Too few young women have enough support and encouragement to pursue a career in STEM, let alone excel in leadership. Arsenio’s work with WISDOM aims to find mentors for young girls who may be interested in careers in STEM. She wants to engage more girls and women in the study and pursuit of science and technology.

Arsenio had an early interest in science, especially biological sciences. She studied infectious diseases as an undergraduate student. She was also fortunate to have great mentors, including her Ph.D. advisor, who supported her passion for research and her post-doctoral mentor. This advisor and mentor also importantly taught her “valuable insights into how to lead a career in science.”

Mentorship is such an important part of career development, and Arsenio still goes to her mentors for career advice and guidance, even now, almost ten years later.

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