Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science

What is International Day of Women and Girls in Science?

International Day of Women and Girls in Science is recognized on the 11th day of February by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly on December 22, 2015.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is implemented by UNESCO and UN Women, in collaboration with intergovernmental agencies and institutions, as well as civil society partners, that aim to promote women in science. Its purpose is to promote full and equal access to participation in science for women and girls.

The Importance of Women and Girls in Science

Did you know that women make up only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and men outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in college? The gap is particularly high in the job fields of engineering and computer science.

~ Did you know? ~

In Canada, women make up 28% of the workforce in STEM Careers.

The Importance here at Pinchin

Bridging the gap and recognizing women’s contributions at Pinchin is vital in promoting diversity and Innovation. We invited a few of our employees to share their thoughts and experiences on being a woman in science. Here’s what they have to say.

Dr. Theresa Phillips

Dr. Theresa Phillips is the National Risk Assessment Lead for the Environmental Due Diligence & Remediation group at Pinchin Ltd. Dr. Phillips has over twenty years’ experience in environmental consulting and remediation. Her work in toxicology, genetics, biochemistry and cancer research has provided a varied scientific background and expertise in the biochemical processes involved in contaminant degradation.

I began my scientific studies in Kinesiology because I wanted to work in a sports-related field, but by mid-first year, the talk of cadavers scared me off and because I had a keen interest in nutrition and metabolic pathways, I switched programs to Biochemistry. Neither I, nor the rest of my family, had any idea what one did with a science degree other than perhaps teach high school chemistry or work in the refineries at Chemical Valley in Sarnia where I grew up.

I became very fascinated with toxicology by fourth year, as the study of how chemicals affect our bodies on a cellular level, including how we biodegrade things and what happens next. I feel privileged to be working in a field that marries all these interests with my propensity for business and critical thinking; having traveled this path on my own and landing somewhere that I’m actually happy at my job might be one of the things I’m most proud of as a “Woman in Science”.

I’ve never felt “out-numbered” as a woman but that might be because I’m not the type to really pay attention to what others are doing, keep score, or let that change my course. I’m very internally driven and self-motivated, not to mention having a lot of confidence in myself (I thank my parents for that), so it never occurred to me that pursuing my goals was at all unusual just because I was a woman. However, I realize that not all women are blessed with such a sense of self and when I look back through history or consider social situations in other countries, I feel so privileged to live in a country where I can study and work in any field I choose. My hope is that the future brings further progress to address inequity with respect to opportunities and pay in scientific fields, for women everywhere, including Canada.

Linda Drisdelle

Linda Drisdelle is a General Manager with the Emissions Reduction & Compliance group at Pinchin Ltd. Linda holds a MBA and Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Toronto, a Master of Engineering from the University of Ottawa and is a member of the Professional Engineers of Ontario.

Society has invested heavily in inspiring young women into STEM* careers over the past 4 decades. The results in general are deemed disappointing for two reasons – first, the numbers are nowhere yet near parity between women and men in these fields and secondly, many women “leave” these fields early in their careers.

I would like to address the second point about it being a ‘failure’ that women leave their ‘STEM’ careers behind. Some research suggests that many of these disappointing women who after much societal investment gained in their “non-traditional” education in STEM and then leave – do so to become managers of technical departments and CEOs of technology-based companies. In these roles, they are not moving away from STEM, but they instead arguably are playing a more important and influential role in STEM industries.

It is time we changed the narrative. It is not a disappointment that few women choose STEM, instead, it is a celebration that proportionally for those that do – can move quicker to more influential and impactful roles that shape the experiences STEM provides all society.

Edyta Chorostkowska

Edyta Chorostkowska is a Risk Assessor in the Environmental Due Diligence and Remediation (EDR) group. Edyta holds a Master of Environmental Science from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Biological Science with a concentration in Environmental Toxicology from the University of Ontario, Institute of Technology

I am fascinated with how the world around us functions, how everything has a purpose and how humans and the environment interact with measurable actions and reactions. I vividly remember reading in my high school science textbook about the effects of different drugs on the mind based on an experiment conducted on spiders – these scientists observed how spiders spun their webs based on the type of drug they were on, and the results were exactly how you would have imagined, webs were erratic when the spiders were on caffeine, or incomplete when on marijuana. I was also very excited to be mixing aldehydes in chemistry class to create different scents in what is essentially the bases for perfumes. And I was thrilled to be making beer in my biology university class so that we could study the effects of yeast on sugars (and its production of alcohol). Science is just amazing – it explains everything around us, and I continue to enjoy all the big and small explanations that science brings.

Over the years as I learned about science pioneers, I appreciated all those that have paved the way. Particularly Marie (Sklodowska) Curie, who was a two time Nobel prize winner in physics and chemistry, the only person to ever receive the prize in two different disciplines, and who fought tirelessly to achieve her goals during a time when women were aggressively pushed out of scientific communities. Plus, she was extra special because she was Polish, and if you’ve seen my last name, it’s pretty obvious that I am too.

I am most proud of seeing other women in science achieve their goals and rise-up the ranks. It can be difficult for women to persevere within the scientific community due to the “leaky pipeline”, lack of mentorship, parental leave, perceived behaviours, and inherent biases in our work environment. At times women must work harder to achieve the same goals that men do within their same positions and can even be overlooked because our personalities may not be as aggressive as a man’s. But when I see women who are managers, senior managers, leaders and beyond, it makes me proud of what they have achieved and what can be achieved.

I am excited to see the next wave of women coming up through the workforce and into upper management positions where we can be heard and make real change where it’s needed. Women are said to be very good leaders since they have high emotional intelligence, can empathize with others, lead by example, know their limitations, and are quite reasonable, capable of juggling a multitude of tasks while keeping the balance. I am very curious to see how the workforce, the scientific community and the world will change as more women take up leadership roles, which will bring equality to everyone.

Silvana Wu

Silvana Wu is a Senior Project Manager in both the Alberta Hazardous Materials and Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) groups. Silvana holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Calgary. She started her career in the Oil Sands field in the Environment, Safety and Social Responsibility group assisting with the development of the Phase II Environmental Impact Assessment application process.

I distinctly recall my first “love at first site” moment with science. I was fifteen, sitting in my school uniform at the front bench in the lab at my school in Peru. Our science teacher had asked each student to bring an old, cheap piece of jewelry to class or basically anything made of metal. My friend and I brought in old, discoloured necklaces that we didn’t use anymore, I remember one of the boys brought in his fork from lunch as a joke. The electroplating experiment was setup like any other boring school experiment we got accustomed to at that age. I don’t recall thinking that this experiment was going to be anything out of the ordinary that morning, but for some reason when those old pieces of jewelry (and fork) was transformed into brand new shiny treasures, my curiosity towards science and engineering was born.

After high school I decided to study engineering at a private university in Lima, Peru. Entry into engineering programs is different than in Canada. If you are not the first or second in your graduating class academically or athletically, you must write an entrance exam to enter the program of your choice. At the time, there were about 2,500 students vying for the 200 seats available to study general sciences. Approximately 99% of the students writing the exam were male. I was able to score within the top 200 of the group and within a couple weeks of starting university quickly became good friends with the two other girls in my class and were inseparable for two years.

Fast forward a couple years, I found myself studying chemical engineering at the University of Calgary. My daughter was born two days after final exams were taken at the end of my first semester of my first year of the program. I had two weeks to recover before going back for my second semester. I was blessed to have a circle of friends with women who would let me photocopy all of their notes when I was too tired to go to class and who would spend hours with me to study for exams.

During my engineering program, I spent a year as an intern in the environmental department of a large oil and gas company. Our director and about half of the senior executive managers I met were female, at the time I didn’t realize how having women in those positions shaped how I now define having a “work/life” balance. I saw these women in senior positions while also raising families and wanted to be like them.

I’ve been extremely blessed to have had many special women throughout my life who without their support, I would not be where I am today. As a woman in science, I believe studying and working in this field not only requires hard work and a strong interest in science, but also a strong network of friends who genuinely want the best for each other and are there to hold you up when you need them

Lorena La Osa Gómez

Lorena La Osa Gómez is a Project Manager in the Environmental Due Diligence and Remediation (EDR) group. Lorena holds a Master of Engineering in Geological Engineering and a Master of Science in Environmental Research, Groundwater Modeling and Risk Assessment from the Polytechnic University of Madrid (Spain). Lorena is working towards a designation as a Professional Engineer with the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA).

When I was a child, my dream was to be a dancer. I felt the passion and plenitude that dance provided me during many years, until I decided that obtaining an engineering degree was the best for me. I do not know if I was right or wrong, but it was my decision nor anybody else. At that time, I wanted to study a degree that combined art and science but that was very difficult to find. Then, I looked at options related in some way with nature, and I chose Geological Engineering after a disastrous start in Civil Engineering. Soon I discovered the potential of Contaminated Sites and Risk Assessment field. Thanks to one of the best professors I had, I started my thesis and Masters in this area. I have been working on this discipline ever since and I am still motivated to learn something new every day.

I grew up in a family where everyone was proud of me because I always worked very hard and reached my goals, even when my self-confidence was low. I always will be grateful for my parents’ support even when I said goodbye to live in Canada. Over the years my decision has caused them some suffering but also happiness too.

As a woman in science, I feel lucky to work in a the field I’ve chosen, surrounded by my colleagues and family that respect, value and motivate me. I am aware that other women do not have that luck in their life and their fight leaves a deep mark on me, because I really think they are heroes. I will fight with them on my day to day as a professional, as a mother and as a wife, for the future of so many girls like my daughters, to ensure they have a future full of opportunities. I am committed to contributing, even if in a small way, to help build their confidence and help them to feel strong enough to be able to reach their dreams and do whatever they want to do because, I truly think, they can.

Working Towards Closing the Gap

Pinchin recognizes the need for talented and creative ability of all our people, to stay competitive and foster an environment that will allow women to thrive in a career in science.

If you are currently studying or are a professional within the field of science, or know someone that is, and would like to learn more about joining our team in a co-op opportunity or professionally at one of our 42 offices across Canada, visit our careers page.

Related Links

SCWIST (The Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology)
Women in Science – Government of Canada
CCWESTT (The Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology
2021 International Day of Women and Girls Science presentation on YouTube hosted by UHN, in partnership with the Durham District School Board