Experts: International Women's Day | March 8

Published: 3 March 2022

March 8 is International Women's Day, a global day of recognition celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and girls, and raising awareness of the work left to be done. (Status of Women Canada)

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

Social justice and advocacy

Chloe Garcia, Sessional Instructor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

“In our media saturated environment and connected lives, it is more important than ever to see women and girls using media and digital spaces to express and advocate for themselves and others, share stories, call out oppressive norms and institutions, or just be themselves. There is still a way to go, with digital spaces contending with the same offline gender politics and politics that marginalize and make invisible women and girls, particularly those that fall outside the White, cis-het, narratives. Today, I celebrate everyone, and urge those in positions of power to take action to help make visible those who need a platform.”

Chloe Garcia is a recent PhD graduate and a sessional instructor in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education. Her research revolves around digital and media literacies, youth digital media products, sex education and sexual and gender-based violence. She is currently working on curriculum development and research for the PortraitX initiative, led by the community organization Raison d’Art.

chloe.garcia [at] (English, French)

Shaheen Shariff, James McGill Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

“On this day, I think about two of the most inspirational women in my life. My mother (who sadly died in 2020), and daughter, who recently achieved her lifelong goal of becoming a surgeon. My mother had less opportunity for education beyond elementary school, had boundless energy and patience, never letting cancer slow her down. My daughter shares that energy and, ironically, operates on cancer patients.

In 2022, International Women’s Day comes at an important crossroads in history. As we emerge from a difficult pandemic, we witness a resurgence of misogyny, patriarchy, normalized gender-based violence, online misinformation, and intersecting discrimination that places women and girls at greater risk of losing hard won progress towards equality. To reverse this relapse, we will need to work harder and smarter to help all young women achieve their career goals. We must do this through focused education, sustained economic empowerment, and research informed government incentives and policies.”

Shaheen Shariff is a James McGill Professor in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education and Associate Member of the Faculty of Law. Her work is centered on the intersection of education, law and policy, with a focus on constitutional, human rights and civil law as it impacts educational institutions. She is best known for her work on cyberbullying, and sexual violence as symptoms of deeply ingrained systemic discrimination and societal power imbalances (intersecting forms of sexism, misogyny, homophobia, ableism, ageism, and xenophobia). In 2020, she received the International Alliance for Women’s Economic Advancement of Women Award.

shaheen.shariff [at] (English)

Science and technology

Alexandra Ketchum, Faculty Lecturer, Institute for Gender, Sexuality and Feminist Studies

“Women and technology, as highlighted by the Feminist and Accessible Publishing, Communications, and Technologies Series, is an important topic in today's society. We must ask ourselves how our technologies (as wide ranging as artificial intelligence, machine-learning, voice assistants, robots, apps and social media) affect women's rights?”

Alexandra Ketchum is a Faculty Lecturer at the Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. She is the founder of the Feminist and Accessible Publishing, Communications, and Technologies Speaker and Workshop Series, an initiative seeking to bring together scholars, creators, and people in industry working at the intersections of digital humanities, computer science, feminist studies, disability studies, communications studies, LGBTQ+ studies, history, and critical race theory.

alexandra.ketchum [at] (English)

Valérie Orsat, Full Professor, Department of Bioresource Engineering

“The presence of women in engineering and engineering academia still needs our attention. Female students start their path in engineering, but they don’t necessarily stay. If they can see that there is potential for women to do well in this field, they will stay. This can effectively be achieved with increasing female role models in the field.”

Valérie Orsat is a Full Professor in the Department of Bioresource Engineering and the Associate Dean of Student Affairs at the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. She is an internationally recognized expert on functional foods and nutraceuticals in the field of global food security and safety challenges. Her current research explores the development of processing methods for enhanced production, extraction and encapsulation of bioactive compounds for functional foods.

Valerie.orsat [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. 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)

Career choices

Lucy Gilbert, Full Professor, Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Oncology 

“When I began my career in medicine, there were very few women, especially in surgery. I was inspired by those few women who had broken the glass ceiling. I hope I can do the same for young women today, especially those struggling against discrimination of any sort. I want women to know that they can have a family and a fulfilling career, if that is what they want. It is for the individual woman to choose, not for others to foist their views on us. The key is believing in yourself.”  

Lucy Gilbert is a Full Professor cross-appointed to the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Oncology. She is head of gynecological oncology at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and leads a long-term research project called the DOVE study: Detecting Ovarian Cancer Early. 

lucy.gilbert [at] (English, French) 

Marie-Hélène Pennestri, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology

“Still today, women often ask me if it is acceptable to have children while they are pursuing studies. This should not be a question. You can be the woman you want. A mother or not. In a relationship or not. An artist, a researcher, a worker, a volunteer, a student. You can be the woman you want and be all that at once, you should not have to choose.”

Marie-Hélène Pennestri is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology. Her research program aims to investigate the development of the sleep-wake cycle in healthy infants and preschoolers from a developmental and familial perspective.

marie-helene.pennestri [at] (English, French)

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