“Missing Numbers”: How Girls and Women Can Help Solve Canada’s Innovation Crisis

Conference Day: 
Day 3 - November 3rd 2017

Organized by: Teddy Katz and Betsy McGregor, SHAD

Speakers: Amanda Adam, High School Student, Member of 771 All Girls Robotics Team, Student Leader of her school’s STEMR Department, St. Mildred’s- Lightbourn School; Winnica Beltrano, University Student, Canada-Wide Science Fair Award Winner, University of Calgary; Paulina Cameron, Expert Panel on Youth Employment, Director, Futurpreneur BC; Emily Cross, High School Student, Canada-Wide Science Fair Award Winner; Erin Engelhardt, Program Director of SHAD, Carleton University; Sarah Gauthier, Assistant Professor, University of Saskatchewan; Melanie Martin, Professor of Physics, University of Winnipeg; Bethel Samson, International Baccalaureate Program High School Student – Summer intern, Megbare Senay Hospital and Addis Ababa University of Pharmacy (SHAD 2017)

Moderator: Betsy McGregor, Founder and Facilitator (Global Leader in Advancement of Youth and Women), McGregor Leadership

Takeaways and recommendations: 

Support under-represented groups in school

  • Support and/or create a national STEM mentorship program for girls and Indigenous youth.

  • Fund more programs that target underrepresented groups like immigrants, refugees, Indigenous peoples, and individuals who reside in rural or isolated areas.

  • Consider the unique barriers for those in rural and isolated communities, such as lack of access to equipment, networks, and fieldwork, and create solutions (e.g. travel bursaries that help fund girls/underrepresented groups from rural communities to access opportunities in larger city centres).

  • Address the federal underfunding of First Nations education.

  • Build into the curriculum connections between classic Western systems and traditional Indigenous knowledge.

  • When creating STEM programs in any community, particularly Indigenous communities, work with people from that community to develop the programming and ensure it is rooted in local knowledge.

  • Add more women and women of colour in STEM-related places like displays on school walls and in textbooks, as well as more broadly on Google, government websites, etc.

  • Teach young girls that it is okay to fail and to let people see your mistakes. (i.e. the SHAD program allows youth to fail in safety.)

  • The Canadian government should create and run a networking app to connect young girls to STEM professionals and mentors.


Combat the brain drain

  • Women who do not feel welcome in Canada or do not see equal opportunities here will leave to start their businesses/careers or do research elsewhere.

  • Continue to push for gender equity in the Canada Research Chairs and Canada Excellence Research Chairs.

  • The gender equity statement required by nominating universities for the Canada 150 chairs is a good step.

  • Bring back scholarship programs targeting women and under-represented groups that were effective (e.g. NSERC University Faculty Award, NSERC USRA program for women, NRC Women in Engineering and Science program, etc.) and/or create more.

  • Continue to fund proven programs (e.g. SHAD, Let’s Talk Science, Actua, NSERC regional women’s chairs, etc.).

  • Review and fix gender inequalities for research opportunities from tri-council and other government funding agencies including:

    • Put more women on review committees (with consideration given for childcare needs).

    • Educate reviewers on gender bias.

    • Consider the gender diversity and commitment to EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) of the institutions applying.

    • Create more funding/grants that target under-represented groups.

  • Proactive government initiatives have succeeded in increasing the number of women on boards or as CEOs; more of these initiatives are needed.

  • Provide tax incentives for:

    • Companies hiring and/or training female engineers, technicians and scientists.

    • Organizations promoting women to higher paid positions in STEM fields.

  • Provide critical growth capital dedicated to women.

  • Provide access to the global market for women; ensure trade mission delegations are 50% women.


Modernize child-rearing expectations and support

  • Through tri-council policy, students can now get maternity/paternity leave – this is a positive step.

  • Modernize what parental leave looks like. It should be more flexible in supporting entrepreneurs who don’t have the social security networks of those working in institutions.

  • Reduce stigma on being a stay-at-home father. Encourage and be open about male partners taking on more of the child-rearing role.

  • Empower men to share the family burden. Start by teaching boys and girls that child-rearing should be every parent’s responsibility.

Push for cultural change

  • It should not be on women or those from under-represented groups to break down barriers. It is the responsibility of the people with the privilege to lower those barriers.

  • If you see an event with less than 50% female speakers, send the organizers a list of women to consider.

  • Canadians should celebrate science like we celebrate sports.

  • The government should create and/or support innovations that encourage women to become investors.

Advice for scholars from under-represented groups

  • Apply more often for awards and scholarships, be confident, don’t be afraid to ask for nominations or nominate yourself, and don’t let setbacks dissuade you from trying again.

  • Establish relationships with mentors who inspire and show what is possible.

  • Surround yourself with like-minded and supportive people, and sign up for as many opportunities as you can.

  • Women often do not apply for things like conferences, positions, etc. if they do not feel they are 100% qualified – be bold and apply anyway!

  • Try and rise above judgment and trust in yourself.

  • Encourage the young women in your life to apply for programs like SHAD and nominate them for awards and positions