International Day of Women and Girls in Science celebrated in Saskatchewan

February 11 marks International Day of Women and girls in science, and the Saskatchewan Science Centre is bringing attention to women in the profession.

The science centre’s 2023 “Girls in STEM” conference took place this week, in an event aimed at helping young women understand that anyone can be a scientist, coder, architect or engineer.

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“The idea is to get young girls to meet women in STEM and get inspired by them,” said Sandra Baumgartner, the Saskatchewan Science Centre CEO. “The chance to listen and learn to see if science and engineering is something they want to pursue,”

Those at the science centre say evidence suggests that while in school, girls perform on par with boys when it comes to grades and education within science.

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But as time goes on the gender gap grows and girls tend to drop out from science, technology, engineering and math after school.

Women make up 50 percent of Canada’s workforce and a recent study from 3M Canada showed that 83 per cent of women face barriers while pursuing STEM education.

“It really does come from the formative years,” Penny Wise, the president of 3M Canada said when discussing the challenges women face stem education. “Whether you’re in elementary school and people say ‘girls aren’t good at math’ or ‘girls aren’t good at science’ and those myths perpetuate and build upon themselves.”

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Wise says solutions to these barriers can be found through mentorship and visible representation.

That was the case for Jenna McEwen who recently graduated from the University of Regina with a degree in cellular and molecular biology.

“I know that when I a young girl, seeing another woman in the role I was gunning for was a game changer,” McEwen said.

The 3m Canada study also showed that sixty per cent of women have considered leaving or actually left STEM careers.

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Something that microbiologist and mother Dr. Kara Loos understands perfectly.

“There are still a lot of barriers for women who want to have children or have a family,” Loos said. “These careers are often so demanding that it screens them out. So they have to choose between having a family or following their dream career.”

Loos also hopes to see the costs come down as the price tag for stem programs is a major deterrent.

“I hope that one day we see free education for all students so that they won’t have this barrier that makes them say ‘I want to be this but I can’t afford to be this,’” she explained.

However, with events such as the “Girls in STEM conference”, McEwan sees nothing but hope for the field.

“The world going to get nothing but better with more women in these fields so yes I definitely feel things are changing for the better,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan Science Centre welcomes Lego exhibit'

Saskatchewan Science Centre welcomes Lego exhibit

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