Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children, Me to We and We Day. Find out more about them at we.org. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.
Following the lab-coat tails of The Big Bang Theory's popular character, Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler (played by real-life neuroscientist Mayim Bialik), are four female tween spies who use math and physics to save the day on Netflix's new show, Project Mc2.
We'd like to see these brainy young women use their genius to solve the real-life riddle of gender imbalance in science-related careers.
Canadian boys and girls score evenly on science and math tests throughout their school years. Yet women still represent less than 40 per cent of university graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and less than 22 per cent of the STEM workforce, according to Statistics Canada.
Lesley Shannon, chair for women in science and engineering at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, says our collective creativity is stifled without women's perspectives. She points out hydraulic seat belts and door-open warning lights – standard safety features on modern cars – were invented by female designers at General Motors.
We concur with Shannon. Look at the world-changing skills of this handful of young teen science wunderkinds. Victoria's Ann Makosinski recently invented a headlamp powered by the heat of the user's forehead. Vancouver's Nicole Ticea took second place at the 2015 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for devising a new test to diagnose HIV in developing countries. And coding whiz Madelaine Coelho, of London, Ont., spent much of last summer passing on her computer expertise to future female techies at a camp she designed for digital marketing company Arcane.
The solutions to our world's greatest challenges, like climate change and feeding seven billion people, lie in scientific and technological discoveries. We'll need to harness the phenomenal brainpower of both sexes to maximize our human potential.
This week's question: How can society – schools, employers, parents, each of us – help end the gender imbalance in science, tech, engineering and math professions?
Sandra Eix, science learning lead, Telus World of Science, Vancouver
"Be a model of curiosity for the girls in your life. Encourage them to tinker with projects like circuits made of playdough. Get messy together in sand, soil and water. And celebrate their persistence, not just the results, when they solve tough problems."
Molly Shoichet, professor of chemical engineering, University of Toronto
"Educators can help students engage with rock stars of research by inviting leading women scientists to speak in science classes, or give commencement addresses. Good in-class videos can be found through Research2Reality, which profiles world-class Canadian researchers."
Danniele Livengood, board member, Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology, Vancouver
"Implicit biases are a critical barrier to women advancing in STEM. Employers can remove gender from the early hiring process by blacking out names on resumes before sending them for screening by the hiring managers, and using an online chat platform for their initial interview instead the phone."
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