Actua National Conference 2016


Speaking Points

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, PC, MP
Minister of Science

Ottawa, Ontario

January 22, 2016

Check Against Delivery

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Ottawa! It is a great honour to join you here as we kick off Actua's 2016 National Conference.

Congratulations to Jennifer Flanagan, Actua's CEO, and her team for putting on what promises to be a tremendous event!

Actua is a great organization that is doing wonderful things, and it has so many women in senior positions. I love it!

Ladies and gentlemen, over the next few days, you'll have a chance to be inspired. You'll hear from thought leaders and have a chance to network with people who share your passion—who share our passion.

From educators to business people, the one thing we all have in common is a desire to get our young people, and particularly young women, to take part in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.

This is the goal of Actua, and it is a key priority of mine. I have spent the last 25 years of my life working with young people to get them excited about STEM fields and STEM jobs.

And I have been fighting for change so that young girls and women would not have to face the challenges I did.

However, it saddens me to say that only 22 percent of Canadians working in STEM fields are women. In 1987, it was 20 percent. That's an increase of 2 percent in nearly 30 years.

I am not happy with this number, and it proves that we must do better and that we have a lot of work to do.

This is important because STEM fields include some of the highest paying sectors in the economy, which only exacerbates the pay gap that currently exists between men and women.

So, I place a lot of importance on improving the participation of young women in science-based education. Increasing awareness of science-based careers among our girls is critical to our country's continued success.

I want today's young women to become tomorrow's Marie Curies.

This is also one of the major goals of our government.

As our Prime Minister said earlier this week while at the World Economic Forum:

"We need policies that encourage science, innovation and research… Diversity is a major reason for Silicon Valley's creativity. Its engineers and entrepreneurs come from all over the world. Each brings a different perspective. And when those diverse ways of seeing and thinking come together, they spark creativity. Diversity fosters new ideas. New ideas generate the experimentation needed to make the most of the fourth industrial revolution."

And everyone in this room knows that STEM fields are vital for a prosperous knowledge economy.

We want to help build a more vibrant science culture in Canada. We want to see broad scientific debate, especially about transformational change and discoveries that can change outcomes for Canadians, the country and the world.

And, as we all know, a strong science ecosystem requires that our young people have a solid STEM foundation.

This is how they are able to go forward and take on the knowledge-based jobs of the future.

With a professional grounding in STEM, our young leaders can create, discover and innovate, which will bring economic and social benefits to us all.

I want to emphasize that I care deeply about our youth and about education. My life before public office was all about education. I loved my students, and there was no greater joy than seeing them achieve their dreams.

I cannot tell you what it means to me to be a part of a government that feels the same passion for young people and for getting them engaged in science!

I was honoured to be named Minister of Science—the second female federal minister in Canada's history to have the word "science" in her official title. The other was the incomparable Jeanne Sauvé. She was named Minister of State for Science and Technology in 1974 by that other Prime Minister Trudeau.

I think this really highlights the importance our government puts on science and on women in science. But there's much more.

We are also working to promote a culture where young people are engaged in and excited about science through programs such as PromoScience and Let's Talk Science.

And we will continue to develop, attract and retain the world's most promising young researchers in Canada, notably through the Vanier scholarships and Banting post-doctoral fellowships.

Speaking of excellence, I want to recognize the seven amazing women who were recognized earlier this week at the L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science award ceremony.

Scientists work for a better tomorrow through exciting discoveries—from aerospace to astronomy and from biotech to clean tech and nanotech.

I look forward to working with organizations like Actua to help get our young people—especially our young women—to pursue STEM because science is exciting, fun and fundamental to solving some of our country's biggest challenges.

Thank you.

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