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Monday, February 11, 2019 - 12:27am

Celebrating the International Day of Women and Girls in Science

While many of us know that March 8 is International Women’s Day, did you know that February 11 is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science? A resolution was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 22, 2015, that recognized “women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened.”

Why recognize women and girls?

Data provided by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics shows that less than 30 percent of researchers are women. Studies consistently show that women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) earn less than men for their research work, publish fewer papers and don’t progress as far in their careers as men do.

In Canada, studies show that women are less likely than men to pursue education or careers in higher-paying STEM fields, such as engineering or computer science. In 2016, Canadian men aged 25 to 34 were almost twice as likely to work in science and technology fields as Canadian women of the same age.

It’s time to encourage girls!

Encouragement and mentorship can play a huge role in getting more girls and women involved in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and design, and mathematics) careers. On November 3, 2018, Science World held its first Girls and STEAM event. Three hundred enthusiastic girls attended Science World’s all-day event where they met mentors, dignitaries and community organizations, attended workshops and made new friends.

At Girls and STEAM, Science World’s President and CEO, Scott Sampson, announced the launch of the Symbiosis STEAM Learning Ecosystem. Symbiosis will become a vibrant model for scaling the kinds of learning and careers needed in a rapidly changing knowledge-based economy, regardless of students’ gender or location.

We salute Canada’s female scientists

While we don’t have the space to honour all of the female scientists who have made, and continue to make, numerous contributions to their respective fields, here are a few notable women we salute on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science:

Harriet Brooks was Canada’s first female nuclear physicist. Graduating from McGill University in 1898, she went on to conduct research with English physicist Ernest Rutherford and with Marie Curie in France. She was the first person to realize that one element can turn into another.

Cecilia Krieger was the first woman, and only the third person, to earn a doctorate in mathematics from a Canadian university. She taught at the University of Toronto for 31 years.

Alice Wilson was the first female geologist in Canada, and the first female geologist to be hired by the Geological Survey of Canada. An expert in Paleozoic formations who earned a PhD, she was not addressed as “Dr” until two years before she retired, unlike her male peers.

Roberta Bondar is Canada’s first female astronaut. She is also the first neurologist to travel to space aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1992. She conducted more than 40 advanced experiments aboard the space shuttle for 14 countries.

Do you have a favourite female scientist? Let us know who she is in the comments!

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