Women in Science at McGill (and beyond): Diversity Matters!

Last night marked the final lecture of Mini-Science 2018. This year’s topic of Women in Science at McGill (and beyond) featured some of the best of what McGill has to offer.

The seven week public lecture series kicked off on February 28 with a quick history lesson on women in science at McGill by Elsbeth Heaman, from the Department of History & Classical Studies, followed by a conversation and audience Q & A with Principal Suzanne Fortier. The weeks that followed featured Tracy Webb on Physics, astrophysics and women, Audrey Moores on Doing Chemistry as Woman, Natalya Gomez on Earth and Climate Science and Women, Brigitte Pientka on Decoding the Gender Gap in Computer Science, Elena Bennett on Women’s Role in Sustainability Science & the Environment and Anna Hargreaves on Exploring Nature’s Diversity – Women and Research in Biology. Unknowingly, despite differences in their departments and faculties at McGill, years in academia and fields of research, one common take-away theme emerged within each presentation: diversity matters!

Why? Every single individual has had their own unique experiences that have helped shape who and what we are today; from the way that we dress, to the way that we each think. Simply put, a mixture in diversity creatures a mixture in ways of thinking, which creates well-rounded solutions and ideas.

In academia, women occupy less than 20% of all full professor positions. Yet, in many undergraduate and even graduate level programs, represent about half of the student body. At the same time, women in academia must work 2.5 times more than their male colleges to be viewed as competent by their peers, however, earn less, are promoted less and publish less. Something not adding up? There is a systemic bias that exists against women in academia and in science.

What can we do? Clearly, change needs to happen. At an individual level, we can each be aware of bias and be aware of when we see it. This goes for both men and women. Due to cultural and environmental conditions, change requires commitment. Commitment from departments, units, institutions and companies. Commitments can be financial, hiring more people of diverse backgrounds, but also social, via representation. In our case, women (multiple!) should have a seat at every table, have their voices heard and opinions consulted. This in turn, will inspire the next generation of bright female scientists to embrace who they are and never stop!


Banner Image from McGill Univeristy

Diversity in Stem Image taken by Saima Ahmed (steezsister) taken during Elena Bennett’s presentation.

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