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Organization empowers women through mentorship to close STEM gender gap

eMentoring mentee (Stephanie Christie, fourth from the left) won a spot at the Canada Wide Science Fair
eMentoring mentee (Stephanie Christie, fourth from the left) won a spot at the Canada Wide Science Fair
When the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST) was founded in 1981, it had a simple vision: empower, include, inspire, connect, and sustain Canadian women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Today, SCWIST remains a leader in STEM programs, partnerships, scholarships, and networks for women of all ages in Canada. An advocate for women and girls pursuing STEM careers, they believe it is crucial to their mission to narrow the gender gap by encouraging and supporting more equity, diversity, and inclusion in STEM.

SCWIST is all about empowerment. Gigi Lau, SCWIST’s Director of Strategic Partnerships Development and Fundraising, notes that most of the people working for SCWIST are active volunteers. Many are women with careers or experience in STEM who dedicate their time and effort to the organization’s programs, despite their busy schedules, because they believe wholeheartedly in its mission.

To further their empowerment mission, SCWIST founded the eMentoring Program where they encourage girls in grades 10 through 12 to explore the world of STEM and to consider what their own future careers might be. The students are matched with female SCWIST volunteers and over a six-week period, they are guided through various aspects of STEM. Their mentors offer helpful advice on different topics or careers that might be pursued in the field of STEM, and more. The students learn how to manage their finances, about different ways to pay for a college education, and work-life balance—all via email exchange. Thus the “e” in the program.

“I think the weekly conversations were very useful in improving my project. Getting feedback from a person who likes science as much as me was great in terms of my project and gaining more experience,” — Wynona T, eMentoring student participant

Thanks to SCWIST’s partnership with Fluke, the eMentoring program can now expand in multiple ways. In 2021, SCWIST could only offer the six-week program three times, but in 2022, three rounds were completed in the first six months of the year. Furthering their program, they are able to expand into the Quebec region with the addition of a French-speaking team member.

JeAnn Watson, Director of Youth Engagement, believes you start with the youth if you want to change the world. Though SCWIST’s programs are mainly focused on female-identifying persons, the organization believes that males should be included in the cause as well.

“We have to start young in changing the perception of women in STEM, not just for girls and women, but also for their male counterparts to support them in their journey. That’s why I’m really passionate about what it is we do in youth engagement, setting the foundation for the future generation so women have more access and more opportunities in the STEM field,” says Watson. Interested in SCWIST’s eMentoring program? Click here to know more
 
SCWIST eMentoring mentee, Stephanie Christie (right) with her mentor, Dr. Anju Bajaj (left)
SCWIST eMentoring mentee, Stephanie Christie (right) with her mentor, Dr. Anju Bajaj (left)
Awards Ceremony Stephanie Crystal