Experienced researchers work to bridge the gender gap

International Day of Women and Girls in Science 2021 is an opportunity to recognize the achievements of women working in science and the motivation they are providing for young women just beginning or in the early stages of their careers.

“International Day of Women and Girls in Science is a chance to encourage full and equitable access to and participation in science for women and girls,” says Barbara Crow, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science. “A wide range of world-class researchers who are women in advanced stages of their careers are providing leadership and mentorship for our young women scientists in our Faculty. I look forward to seeing even more opportunities for the next generation of researchers."

The following are only three examples of the women in our Faculty who are leaders and mentors in their respective fields.

Dr. Heather Jamieson (Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering, jointly appointed to the School of Environmental Studies) is a Canadian leader in the field of the environmental impact of mining and most recently earned the 2019 Rick Hutson Mentorship Award winner from Women in Mining Canada (WIMC). The award recognizes her work in mentoring, supporting and guiding young women in their studies and in taking their first steps in the early days of their mining careers. She has now supervised more than 65 graduate students, about half of them women.

“In high school, I was interested in science but not particularly geology but then I got a summer job as a field assistant to Susan Atkinson, who was the first woman geologist hired by the local exploration company,” says Dr. Jamieson. “She inspired me to study geology in university. However, I avoided environmental geology because it was presented as a ‘soft’ science that might be suitable for the very few girls that were in the geology program. Instead, I chose the ‘hard’, more mathematical specialties and completed my PhD in mineral thermodynamics. Only later did I realize that environmental geology is exciting and challenging.”

Dr. Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry), the Canada Research Chair in Metal Organic Chemistry, attended an all-girls high school which allowed her to see women working in positions of power. It was also where her love of chemistry was born.“

As a graduate student, I had the pleasure of completing part of my PhD in Japan, where I was the only female and only foreigner in the entire department,” says Dr. Crudden. “The experience of being a visible minority, of being different from everyone around me, was hugely impactful. It gave me a small look into what it feels like to be a visible minority.”

Dr. Crudden is currently a joint Professor at the Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules, based out of Nagoya University in Japan, where she runs a satellite lab. She is one of only four international collaborators at this Institute.

“Throughout my career I have actively encouraged female researchers to apply to my lab and have supported my female peers as much as possible,” adds Dr. Crudden. “I’ve been honoured with many awards targeted at female researchers and have recently been named the first female Editor in Chief of the journal ACS Catalysis. I know my career is unusual and that I’ve had opportunities that are not open to everyone, but I’m also conscious that my actions affect the next generation of scientists, and I take that job very seriously.”

Wendy Powley (School of Computing) is also passionate about encouraging more women to join the School of Computing. The School’s just completed Cybersecurity for Womxn program helped address Canada’s need for trained cybersecurity personnel at all levels and Professor Powley is also planning a recruiting event for high school girls. It will be tied in with the Aspirations Awards recognition ceremony, an awards program that is combined with the Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing conference to identify and recognize high school women who have an aptitude and interest for computer science.

“Technology is everywhere, it is the way of the future,” says Professor Powley. “We need everyone's input to ensure that what we have created is as inclusive as possible. Careers in technology are lucrative, creative, and provide a broad range of opportunities that are appealing to everyone, regardless of gender.  Showing young women that they belong and they have a place in this field has always been a passion of mine.”

Learn more about the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.