Canada has for a long time been touted as one of the world leaders in championing the advancement of women and equality in all aspects of society.
And on International Women’s Day this Friday, people across Canada — and locally in Halifax — are being asked to consider how the power of research can be harnessed to further advance that equality with the theme #InnovateForChange.
While the entire week has been filled with engaging and thought-provoking activities and discussions, the annual International Women’s Day breakfast put on by the Atlantic chapter of the International Women’s Forum stands out.
Research with impact
Alice Aiken, Dal’s vice president research and innovation, was asked to organize the panel at this year’s breakfast and will serve as moderator for the discussion about Canadian women in research.
Dr. Aiken will be joined by a number of Dal researchers, including Christine Chambers, Ingrid Waldron, and Debbie Martin as well as non-Dal contributors Roseann O’Reilly Runte (president and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation) and Clarissa Sit (associate professor of chemistry at Saint Mary’s University).
“The researchers that we’ve picked are all doing really impactful work and doing it with really unique methodologies that fascinate people and may cause them to reconsider what is and what is not research,” says Dr. Aiken.
While Dalhousie and Canada in general actively encourage and support the involvement of women in research, Dr. Aiken points out that women are still underrepresented and underfavoured in the granting process.
She says women often do research to have impact and make a difference, but that Canada currently focuses too much attention on measuring traditional markers of research success such grants and number of publications.
“What we don’t have are perfect measures for measuring impact and having impact with your research, which is where more women tend to work. And I think we really need to think about what those metrics are and how do we promote them as equally valuable,” she says.
Dr. Aiken said it is clear that momentum is building to empower women in research, particularly in light of Donna Strickland's recent Nobel Prize in Physics — a first for a Canadian woman.
Diversity of women in STEM
Another noteworthy event is the International Women’s Day address at the Halifax Central Library by Rita Orji, an assistant Professor at the Dalhousie Faculty of Science. Her presentation will focus on celebrating women across the diversity spectrum in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
“Women demonstrate a lot of courage and determination to succeed in a biased system,” she says.
Dr. Orji goes further to challenge the stereotypical gender norms that keep women from advancing in STEM and how technology can be used to breach the gender divide.
For more information on what is going on during International Women's Week, visit Human Rights and Equity Services online.
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