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Toronto Catholic District School Board

I​In 2015, the United Nations declared February 11 to be International Day of Women and Girls in Science. In celebration of this day, St. Joseph's College collaborated with Let's Talk Science to host an event celebrating the contributions of women to STEM fields. A panel of women leaders in a diverse range of STEM fields spoke to over 400 of our students about their careers, their education, their struggles and their triumphs. 

The guests included:

Jocelyn Bentley, Director & Producer, Science Media Creator
 
Davida Denich, Biologics Marketer, Amgen Canada
 
Leigha Mitchell, Software Developer, Flashfood
 
Sandhya Mylabathula and Swapna Mylabathula, (STEAM Sisters)
 
Pakizah Kozak, Director, Enterprise Information Management, Sick Kids Hospital
 
Kristen Facciol, P. Eng, Operations Engineer, Mission Control Group, Canadian Space Agency
 
 
These seven women engaged in an animated discussion that emphasized the need for women to be involved in STEM fields. They have all achieved great success in their careers, though they arrived at this point through very different paths. Their message of perseverance, believing in yourself, and striving to contribute positively to the world resonated strongly with our students. This day has opened the door to some new and exciting career possibilites for our students, but more importantly it inspired them.
 
 
A new generation of "STEMinists" is coming out of St. Joe's! Our graduates continue to choose STEM fields at a far higher rate than the average across Canada.​

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We are so thrilled to be hosting this event and to celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. In a few minutes, we will hear from  this fantastic panel of women who are leaders in diverse Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields and who have graciously agreed to share some of their time with us today.


As a science teacher, I am regularly amazed by the developments and discoveries that occur on an ongoing basis due to the work of scientists around the world. From the ever-expanding capabilities of our cell phones to the improved understanding and management of human health and disease or our increased ability to generate and use energy more efficiently, there are constant advancements that have real effects on how we live our lives.


In spite of these impressive advancements, I can not help but feel that we might be even further ahead if we had not for centuries silenced or limited the voice of women in science. Through long standing biases and gender stereotypes, as well as outright patriarchal control, women have in the past been pushed away from science related fields. This situation is improving, but there is a long way to go. Worldwide, less than 30% of the workforce in STEM fields is made up of women. In Canada, 20% of women are likely to choose a STEM program in university or college, while 40% of men will.


It is a privilege for me to teach at St. Joseph’s College, where the Sisters of St. Joseph long ago took action to ensure that girls had the same opportunities to learn and choose their pursuits in life as boys did. This school was founded on the basis of providing quality education to girls, particularly those in underserved communities including new immigrants and others facing disadvantages. I am also proud of how hard our staff works now to encourage our young women to take science, math and computer courses at St. Joe’s, and to pursue post-secondary programs in related fields. And the evidence suggests that we are ahead of most of the world: with the help of the guidance department I have reviewed the programs to which our Grade 12s have applied for next year. Just under 50% of our girls have applied to university and college programs in STEM fields for September. We are contributing to a necessary change in our society. Everyday I am inspired by young women who have the intelligence, the skills and the drive to achieve success in these fields and I look forward to seeing the changes they will bring about in the world.


Today, we will hear from some of the women who are making change and leading the way for other women in STEM fields. Our first guest is Dr. Bonnie Schmidt. Dr. Schmidt is the Founder and President of Let’s Talk Science. I know most of our St. Joe’s students have been involved in opportunities to engage in science learning that have been created by Let’s Talk Science. Dr. Schmidt founded the organization in 1991 while completing her PhD in Physiology at Western University. Let’s Talk Science is a national charitable organization that helps children and youth fulfill their potential and prepare for future careers and citizenship through engagement in STEM. To date, Let’s Talk Science has engaged over 7 million youth and educators, with the help of over 26 000 volunteers. For her efforts, Dr. Schmidt has received numerous awards. She was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2015. In 2018 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. We are honoured to have her here with us today to begin our conversation. -

 Ben Meagher, Department Head of Science


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Our School Trustee

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Dr. Bonnie Schmidt

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