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Laurier launches the Centre for Women in Science
Wilfrid Laurier University’s Centre for Women in Science (WinS) celebrated its official launch Thursday with a visit from Melissa Franklin, Mallinckrodt professor of physics and chair of the Physics Department at Harvard University. Guests also met the centre’s distinguished advisory board and faculty, and participated in hands-on science demonstrations conducted by Laurier students.
“I love that this is coming out of Wilfrid Laurier University,” said Franklin. “I’m really looking forward to all the students at Laurier – both men and women – becoming scientists, because we have a lot of science to do in the next century. We need everybody we can get because we have a lot of serious problems [to tackle].”
The WinS mission is to build a strong community for women in science and the mathematical social sciences through research, action and communication. Franklin is a fitting example of the centre’s goals. Born and raised in Canada, Franklin is a pioneer as a scientist and a woman: she was the co-discoverer of the top quark, a fundamental particle of nature, and the first woman to achieve tenure in Harvard’s Physics Department.
In 2008, only 30 per cent of mathematics, computer science and information science graduates in Canada were female, which represents a decrease from 35 per cent in 1990.
“Although women make up more than a third of full-time faculty in Canada, fewer than 20 per cent of Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs are held by women,” said Abby Goodrum, Laurier’s vice-president: research. “It’s been suggested that the lack of female representation in prestigious research positions is not due to active choices made during the selection process alone, but the result of many factors that contribute to the ongoing challenge of attracting and retaining women in science, from the earliest stages of their training all the way through their careers.”
Other facts showcased during the event:
- Studies show zero difference in science aptitude between school-aged boys and girls
- Only three per cent of women in the Canadian workforce work in natural sciences and engineering
- It could take an entire century before women hold 50 per cent of university faculty positions in science and engineering
“We recently celebrated Laurier’s 100-year anniversary … in another 100 years, let’s not celebrate the 100th anniversary of this centre,” said Shohini Ghose, professor of Physics & Computer Science at Laurier and director of WinS. “We should not exist because we should not have to exist. Our goal is, in fact, to shut ourselves down as soon as possible.”
WinS will provide grants and support to female scientists and to scholars studying the role of women in the sciences. In addition, it will organize seminars, workshops and conferences, develop partnerships with other educational institutions and with industry, facilitate networking and mentoring opportunities for female scientists, and support community outreach to female youth considering careers in science.
“We’re here today to launch the Centre for Women in Science, and in particular recognize the hard work that Shohini has put into the centre,” said Paul Jessop, dean of Laurier’s Faculty of Science. “It’s gratifying to see the degree of enthusiasm and support, as evidenced by the crowd here today. The centre has really resonated with people.”
Visit www.wlu.ca/wins for more information.