- Nearly 70% of recipients selected for Canada’s largest STEM. scholarship have been female -
In the wake of several successful campaigns advocating for women to pursue the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects, Schulich Leader Scholarships is lauding its female nominees and recipients, demonstrating its resolve to promoting the #WomenInSTEM campaign, which aims to engage female students and foster their relationship to STEM
Currently, there is an underwhelming female presence in these subjects, which many accredit to gender stereotypes, sexism, corporate marketing, and even parental attitudes. According to Statistics Canada, a mere 12% of Canada’s professional engineers and university professors teaching STEM subjects are female. In 2011, women accounted for only 39% of students graduating from STEM subjects.
An overwhelming 68% of Schulich Leaders, recipients to Canada’s largest STEM scholarship, are female. “We have taken great pride in our female recipients who can hopefully become role models for the next generation of female students who are hesitant to pursue a path in STEM,” says Schulich Leader Scholarships executive director, David Goodman. "We are witnessing a paradigm shift in secondary school education, where the top talent who are going off to pursue bachelor degrees in STEM are increasingly young women". Of the 1,500 Nominees that applied for the 2016 Schulich Leader Scholarships across Canada, over 60% were female.
“It is important for women to get involved with STEM subjects in order to bring a perspective that men may not have,” adds Sandra Smeltzer, recently selected by Queen’s University toward an $80,000 engineering scholarship.” Coincidentally, Shad Valley, a prestigious technology boot camp, recently announced that seven of their alumni were selected to become 2015 Schulich Leaders - all women.
Furthermore, campaigns like the United Nations’ own @HeForShe, engaging boys and men in addressing gender equity, and #ILookLikeAnEngineer, calling on female engineers to break down gender stereotypes, are helping address this issue of gender equality in both academia and the workplace. “Gender equity is not a women’s issue – it is an everybody issue,” says University of Waterloo president Feridun Hamdullahpur. Waterloo has made several commitments in order to achieve comprehensive, long-time and sustainable gender equality on campus.
Corporations are also contributing to this global effort, with companies like Lego and MGA Entertainment releasing toys that introduce girls to the STEM subjects from an early age, eradicating any sort of conditioning before it starts.
Nikita-Kiran Singh, a 2012 Schulich Leader who’s slated to attend the University of Alberta’s medical program this fall, argues that there’s a “gentle gender bias” associated with STEM subjects, and that programs like Schulich Leaders are essential to “eliminating that mentality.” Singh claims that teachers and schools “could initiate a lot of change” if they were “more aware” of those biases, even if they’re not intending to perpetuate them.
“The point is,” she concludes, “what you look like has nothing to do with what you think like.”