Tomorrow, Saturday, February 11, 2023 is the 8th International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The United Nations created the day to respect and remember those who continued to study, research and experiment when they faced barriers due to their gender. The official website for the day is located at https://www.womeninscienceday.org/
Throughout history, scientists have often come under fire from members of the establishment. Everyone knows that Galileo was deemed a heretic for communicating his observation that the earth revolved around the Sun. Galileo died in 1642. Fewer people know that the Nazis expelled physicist and metallurgist Ursula Franklin from Berlin University. Franklin died recently in 2016.
Worldwide, women make up just 30% of the world’s scientific researchers and 50% of the world’s population. The more society relies on scientific and technological solutions to problems, the more that disparity in the workforce impedes progress toward environmental sustainability and improved quality of life for everyone.
Colleges and universities are marking the day in a variety of ways.
The University of Guelph is profiling the clubs and affinity groups for students that champion women and gender minorities studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The clubs play a unique role in helping women to define their future careers.
“In many ways, it’s a support system for women in science,” said Deneisha Hammith, a fifth-year biomedical science and neuroscience student. “Women are a minority, and it can be hard to go into a field where you don’t see yourself. Even just feeling like you have to compete with your peers, other women, can be challenging.”
Niagara College is using the day to celebrate its staff, faculty and alumni who, the college believes, “serve as shining examples for women and girls with dreams of pursuing exciting careers in STEM.”
“Many young girls today are a lot more financially driven than any other generation. They want that independence. The field of trades, technology and science have good paying jobs,” said Jan Bradley who is both an engineer and professor at Niagara College.
Northern Arizona University asked women scientists what advice they have for women and girls interested in a STEM career. One piece of advice from NAU faculty, in particular, echoed what academic insiders at Professor Services tell their clients embarking on a job search.
“Find a mentor, role model or ally to help you learn more about opportunities,” said Carol Chambers, an NAU professor in the School of Forestry. “And if you can, get involved in a professional organization for your chosen career and build your network. I’ve had many opportunities I wouldn’t have had by being a member of The Wildlife Society.”
The University of Zurich took a similar approach to NAU’s. To observe the day, it posted profiles and insights from women faculty of its physics department.
“My research aim is to reveal the fundamental nature of dark matter. I am happy to see many young, brilliant women in astroparticle physics,” said UofZ Professor Laura Baudis. “Nonetheless, the gender imbalance in our field remains profound, and we must work hard to remove the barriers that prevent a large fraction of society from participating in our exciting discipline.”