Experts: International Day of Women and Girls in Science | February 11

Published: 8 February 2022

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, celebrated on 11 February, is implemented by UNESCO and UN-Women, in collaboration institutions and civil society partners that aim to promote women and girls in science. This Day is an opportunity to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. Gender equality is a global priority for UNESCO, and the support of young girls, their education and their full ability to make their ideas heard are levers for development and peace.   Tackling some of the greatest challenges of the Agenda for Sustainable Development -- from improving health to combating climate change -- will rely on harnessing all talent. That means getting more women working in these fields. Diversity in research expands the pool of talented researchers, bringing in fresh perspectives, talent and creativity. This Day is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened. (UNESCO)  

Here are some experts from McGill University who can provide comment on this issue: 

Daryl Haggard, Associate Professor, Department of Physics 

“Women and girls are making high-impact discoveries in science. Recent Nobel Prizes in chemistry and physics speak to the importance of these contributions. Yet both structural and cultural challenges remain. The international community’s commitment to science and gender equity is crucial to continuing the development of this talent. I am thrilled to be a woman in science, and I am deeply committed to training the next generation of women scientists who will break new ground in physics and astrophysics.” 

Daryl Haggard is an Associate Professor of Physics at McGill University in the McGill Space Institute. She is a member of the New College of the Royal Society of Canada and holds a Canada Research Chair in Multi-messenger Astrophysics. 

daryl.haggard [at] (English) 

Brigitte Pientka, Full Professor, School of Computer Science  

"The gender gap in computing is persisting. In North America, only 20.6% of bachelor's degrees in computer science are awarded to women. Yet, the future is digital. Increasing the participation of women in computing is not only vital for our economy to meet the increasing demand for IT jobs, but also for our society in general.  I am proud that at McGill we have over 37% women majoring in computer science today. We have achieved this by removing entry barriers and giving every student the chance to learn about computing through our highly popular set of introductory courses in programming. While many barriers still exist, this makes me hopeful that we are moving in the right direction and our next generation of students will reshape computer science and more broadly its impact on our society.”  

Brigitte Pientka is a full professor in the School of Computer Science. Her research focuses on foundations of programming languages to build reliable and safe software. She is also the Co-Chair of Undergraduate Affairs in the School of Computer Science and a passionate champion of women and more generally underrepresented groups in computer science.  

brigitte.pientka [at] (English)   

Alanna Watt, Associate Professor, Department of Biology 

“In Biology and Neuroscience, women make up at least half of our student population, which shows that girls and women are interested in these fields! Yet as one progresses in a scientific career, the proportion of women decreases. The reasons for this gender gap are complex, but we have gained insight into its causes by studying it scientifically. I am encouraged by the proactive, evidence-based steps taken by Canadian universities and funding agencies to promote diversity and inclusion in science. I firmly believe that the gender gap in science is a solvable problem.”  

Alanna Watt is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at McGill University. She started her own lab at McGill in 2011, focusing on cerebellar development and plasticity in both healthy brains and in animal models of disease.   

alanna.watt [at] (English)  

Nathalie Tufenkji, Full Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Biocolloids and Surfaces 

“On the issue of gender equality in science and engineering, the needle is moving too slowly. We need to take action at all levels of education to enable the participation of more girls and women in these fields. Each of us can contribute to engaging more girls and women in science and engineering.”  

Nathalie Tufenkji is a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair and Chemical Engineering Professor at McGill University. She is the principal investigator at the Biocolloids and Surfaces Laboratory at McGill University.  

nathalie.tufenkji [at] (English, French)  

Audrey Moores, Associate Professor, Department of Chemistry  

“It is well recognized that women account for fewer graduates than men in a number of STEM fields, but recent data from Canada looking at career paths 10 years after graduation indicates that there is more attrition of women than men in these careers. This discrepancy explains in part the gender gap we see in salaries, because salaries in STEM jobs are typically higher than average. This is even more troublesome when we realize that STEM jobs are at the heart of the sustainability revolution needed to combat climate change. UN data shows that women are likely to be more affected by the negative effects of climate change than men, and yet they are more likely to be excluded from the solution. We have the responsibility to advocate, reach out to and mentor those around us to reduce this gap, but strong political action is also needed to see significant change.”   

Audrey Moores is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at McGill University. Since 2007, her research group has worked at the interfaces between the fields of nanoparticle science, material chemistry, coordination chemistry and organic synthesis.    

audrey.moores [at] (English, French)  

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