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"Girls and Science": workshops to light the scientific torch

“Girls and Science”: workshops to light the scientific torch

At the time of choosing to continue their studies, many high school girls wandered on Saturdays in the corridors of the Montreal Polytechnic to discover scientific careers, a field in which few women still penetrate.

When you become an engineer or a computer scientist or a biologist, science isn’t just about spending whole days doing experiments, alone, in the lab, an image that the Girls & Science event attempts to demystify.

Courtesy image

We try to set an example for these young girls. During the day, Nathalie Rancourt, engineer and head of the organizing committee, explained that they would meet women with whom they would explain the purpose of all scientific professions.

The interest was very present among the girls, who were able to participate in science workshops, discuss with about forty companies and universities in the field, but who also attended Yannick Bergeron’s chemistry presentation.

Images courtesy JessKa_CLimoilou

The teacher who auditions for “Les Débrouillards” is not in his first edition of the event and regularly participates in that organization also in Rimouski, Quebec or Sherbrooke.

He knows how much this kind of meeting can make a difference, he’s the one who has a student hooked up with science since the age of nine thanks to her radio shows.

Elodie Lavigne, now 16, knew she wanted to be a veterinarian and was happy to see so many girls who are as passionate about science as she is.

“Girls are very afraid of science because they don’t want to impose themselves, but I think they should, because once you are interested, there are so many possible activities to do,” she advanced.

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Natalie Baudry, then head of the university’s recruitment department at Peel, realized more than 20 years ago that it was difficult to find women for scientific positions.

“The reason we don’t have any female candidates is because we didn’t have any women in our schools,” said the woman who founded the event in 1998.

Image courtesy Claude Baillargeon

If civil or biomedical engineering attracts women, according to Anne-Sophie Guérin, a fourth-year polytechnic student and an animator at Hydro-Québec, the IT field still struggles with employment.

Thus women accounted for 9% of computer engineering students in 2020-2021 in Quebec, a lower number than in 2018-2019 when they were just 16%, according to data from the Women’s Chair in Engineering, Science and Engineering.

Results that only motivate event participants to make a difference. Ms. Rancourt summed up: “Not everyone can go to NASA, but it just takes a spark to change someone’s mind.”