Established in the 1980s, when there was a dire need for the promotion of women in the science and technology sectors, SCWIST continues to work towards equal representation for women in Canada. Rosine Hage-Moussa explains how her personal experiences have led to her current position, and reveals the role of the media in the persistence of outdated ideas concerning women in STEM.
Could you open with a brief history of the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST)? How has the Society developed since its inception?
SCWIST was founded in 1981 by a small group of women in Vancouver, British Columbia. This was the same year that 1,300 women, concerned about women’s rights being excluded from the new Charter of Rights, intensively lobbied MPs, resulting in the inclusion of women’s rights in Canada’s constitution. Since this time, a number of programmes have been developed which continue to support women and girls in science. These include summer science workshops and conferences to keep young girls engaged in maths and sciences, and our annual XX Evening – an event which introduces girls to inspiring role models. We have also developed toolkits for teachers so that we are able to bring knowledge and demonstrations into the classrooms.
Today, we offer specialized support for immigrant women in science and provide them with the tools they need to adapt and succeed in a new environment. We also recognize the importance of networking as a way for women to feel supported, and much of our programme has evolved to meet this need.
All of these ideas and initiatives come from enthusiastic women scientists who volunteer their time and energy, and have been supported by government grants and, most notably, the Michael Smith fund.
As President, could you present an overview of your key duties?
My main responsibility is to support our members in their goals, as well as helping them to feel empowered and inspired to pursue careers in STEM. By working with a dedicated and enthusiastic board, we identify key issues that members are facing, and then provide mentoring and networking opportunities to help them overcome these challenges. Furthermore, I aim to inspire all of our directors, who are enthusiastic about supporting SCWIST’s vision, and ensure that we have an enabling environment to carry out our activities.
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