On March 4th, 2018, over 200 undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and researchers flocked to the University of Western Ontario to attend the 2nd Biennial Inspiring Young Women in STEM Conference. The conference focused on inspiring and supporting young women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) by providing the opportunity to network with and learn from established women in STEM fields.
The event began with opening remarks from Kate Young, a Member of Parliament and the Parliamentary Secretary for Science, who discussed the positive impact that the 2018 Canadian federal budget will have on scientific research. Throughout the day, attendees heard engaging keynote lectures from Dr. Emily Lalone (a professor in Mechanical and Materials Engineering), Claudette Critchley (the co-founder of Big Blue Bubble), Dr. Lisa Saksida (a professor in Physiology and Pharmacology, as well as a co-Scientific Director of BrainsCAN), and Dr. Savita Dhanvantari (a professor in Medical Biophysics). Participants also had the opportunity to network with industry representatives, and view student poster presentations. The day concluded with a panel discussion on equal treatment for women in STEM with Drs. Emily Lalone, Lisa Saksida, Savita Dhanvantari, and Mark Daley (a professor in Computer Science and the Associate Vice-President (Research) at the University of Western Ontario).
Building on its partnership with BrainsCAN, Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives was able to support six trainees to attend this event. Here is what they took away from the conference:
“The more women that are part of the conversation, the better chance we have to address issues of sexism and discrimination in STEM”. – Kathryn Vaillancourt, graduate student in Neuroscience
“In STEM industries, as in many other industries, women work harder than men in order to gain a similar level of recognition from their professional communities. Sexism and discrimination against women still exist to these very days; therefore, more women need to be included in the conversation in order to resolve, and later eliminate, such kinds of discrimination”. – Hussein Bdair, graduate student in Neuroscience
“Women can play a key role in increasing inclusion in science and society, healing not only gender biases, but also any form of silent or overt discrimination”. – Francesca Capozzi, postdoctoral fellow in Psychology
“It was very inspiring to hear from such strong women who have built their careers from the ground up, despite having faced various degrees of discrimination along the way”. - Trisanna Sprung-Much, graduate student in Neuroscience
“It was amazing to see so many young women with strong determination to rise against the barriers in the field and hearing the speakers share their inspiring stories. I was especially struck by the importance of mentors that were behind the success stories of every speaker. This conference strengthened my belief that surrounding oneself with mentors from diverse backgrounds and being a mindful mentor myself, will lead science to its fullest potential”. - Alice Morgunova, graduate student in Neuroscience
“While I enjoyed all of the keynote lectures, Dr. Lalone’s resonated with me the most. She spoke freely about dealing with imposter syndrome, practicing self-kindness when dealing with setbacks, and overcoming discrimination as a woman in engineering”. - Stephanie Scala, graduate student in Neuroscience
Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives looks forward to continuing to provide opportunities for trainees to attend conferences, build connections, and gain inspiration to make an impact.
We would like to acknowledge Stephanie Scala for her work on this article.