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This Week in Research: Representation of women in STEM

Where are we now?

Representation of women in STEM: Where are we now?
May 12th   2016 Laurentian University 

The Brenda Wallace Reading room was filled with students, professors and staff of Laurentian University for part one of  a series of talks on diversity in research and academics. Which is also part of Science Odyssey, Science Odyssey is a collaborative event led by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) in collaboration with many other federal departments and agencies and community organizations.  The first talk of this series focused on the topic of “Representation of women in STEM: Where are we now?” Dr. Thomas Merritt, one of the organizers of the event, had this to say when asked what

 

Inspired this particular event, “We [were] looking to hold a series of conversations, on diversity in academics in research and particularly in STEM, and we want them to relate also to particular issues that we have here at Laurentian. Issues such as Francophone representation in research and academics, aboriginal and first nation communities’ research and academics, visible minorities in STEM, issues of  women in academics and we decided that this [event] would be the best entry into these discussions. What we want to do is begin with our expert panel and have them lead the room and have a dialogue, a dialogue that celebrates our successes but also takes a step back and honestly looks at what could and have to be doing better”.

The first in what is to be a series of discussions on diversity at Laurentian University focused on Women in STEM and featured a panel of experts, themselves established women in STEM. PhD candidate, Jesse Popp (Biology), Dr. Annie Roy-Charland (Psychology) and Dr. Tammy Eger (CROSH), who have each experienced the struggles and successes in their respective STEM fields, provided their unique perspectives on various aspects relating to diversity. Topics of discussion included family and societal support, institutional expectations, mentorship and motivation.

Mentorship, in particular, struck a chord with Dr.’s Annie Roy-Charland and Tammy Eger. Dr. Eger had this to say about the importance of the mentorship support, “It   is important that young women don't see any barriers when they consider research careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics research fields and critically important that current STEM researchers (men and women) provide mentorship to support the development of young scientists in general and young female STEM scientists in particular. I was fortunate enough to have excellent mentors during the early years of my academic career; therefore, I feel passionate about supporting early career researchers.”

Dr. Roy-Charland spoke to her role as a mentor as well, “I think it’s my job to be involved in these types of discussions, I’ve been here awhile, and I’m tenured and established myself as a researcher I think I need to be an advocate for young women coming in to our field. We need to stop seeing barriers as limits to be

 

Accepted and instead see them as challenges. We need to teach that to our students, you can overcome these things.”

With regard to how Laurentian University is responding to matters of diversity and gender equality, and specifically to the representation of women in research, Jesse Popp spoke to that as well, “I think Laurentian is definitely progressing, but there is always room for improvement, and I feel that through these discussions we can provide some ideas on how to do exactly that. I was very excited to be part of this  as a woman, I would love to see more equality and it’s great to fight for the cause when you can.”