Creating an inclusive STEM future

Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology

Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology’s 27-month long project plans to create safer and more inclusive STEM workplaces for women and gender-diverse people. 

When she meets people interested in pursuing a career in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM), Dr. Melanie Ratnam likes to ask them a specific question.

“When did you fall in love with it?”

As the President of The Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST) and a mentor to over 1,000 students from elementary to university levels[Mh1] , she has a lot of opportunities to ask it – and their answers are always interesting.

Many aspiring scientists point to a moment from their youth. It was a teacher, principal, or STEM club that inspired them to follow this career path.

From Dr. Ratnam’s perspective, the drive to use science for the betterment of society is at the heart of what she – and SCWIST at large – intend to achieve with their work. “The promise that STEM holds is something that’s so powerful, that’s so beautiful, and is such a force for good,” she says.

The innovative possibilities in STEM careers should be accessible to all who wish to participate. But too often, barriers can be encountered by women and gender-diverse people looking to enter the field.

Taking action

With the support of WAGE funding, SCWIST is kicking off a 27-month project that will make use of various promising practices to work towards ending gender-based violence (GBV) in STEM workplaces. These practices include engaging men in discussing hierarchical power issues and the importance of intersectionality in the workplace. The aim of these discussions is to build empathy and create long-term behavioural changes.

Dr. Ratnam is clear: there is no more time to delay. “Now is the time for all of us – individuals, institutions, companies, and policymakers – to come together and understand our roles in creating the change needed to be successful in the future.”

The power of youth

Women are currently underrepresented in STEM occupations: they make up less than 30% of people currently employed in a professional STEM field while men make up over 70%.Footnote 1

With statistics like these, SCWIST is focusing on youth to make a change.

“What we want to see is the systemic barriers that so many of us have had to face are mitigated and preferably eliminated altogether,” says Dr. Ratnam. “So that our future workforce, our youth, can unleash powerful solutions to challenges and create leadership that's going to change the world for the better.”

The bright side? These statistics are already shifting. In 2021, women ages 25-34 accounted for 34% of all STEM postsecondary qualification holders. They also currently make up over half of postsecondary qualification holders in areas like science and technology, biological sciences, and general and integrated sciences.Footnote 2

Representation as a "need-to-have"

When it comes to diversity in STEM workplaces, Dr. Ratnam is clear: in order to maintain a competitive, sustainable, and innovative STEM industry in Canada, equitable representation is necessary.

By ensuring that STEM industries use intersectional hiring practices and create inclusive environments where all can thrive, Canada is on its way to being more innovative – one new hire at a time.

Additional Resources

Homepage - SCWIST

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