Research Chair Aims to Attract Women to Science, Engineering

March 08, 2010 - News Release

The University of Guelph announced today that a research chair dedicated to increasing the participation of women in science and engineering university programs has, since its inception in 2008, engaged with more than 8,000 women and girls.

The chair, which is supported by the University of Guelph, Research In Motion (RIM) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), was established to address the under-representation of women in science and technology. According to Engineers Canada, less than 20 per cent of undergraduate engineering students in Canada are women.

The NSERC/RIM Chair for Women in Science and Engineering’s efforts have included outreach programs in public schools, Girl Guide summer camps, programs to help female scientists and engineers secure research positions, and workshops on career transitions for women.

“It’s been a phenomenal way to get the word out to thousands of girls and women about career opportunities in science, engineering and technology,” said chair holder, Prof. Valerie Davidson, School of Engineering.

Highlights of activities that took place in the past year include:

• More than 700 young women, 500 parents and 400 volunteers participated in Go ENG Girl, a province-wide event for girls in grades 7 to 10 and their parents to learn about programs and careers in engineering.

• A total of 136 elementary and high school classes in 40 Ontario schools participated in Ready SET Go! workshops, which included presentations and design activities related to science, engineering and technology careers.

• More than 650 elementary and high school students — nearly 60 per cent of them female — took part in research activities offered by the Science and Technology Consortium, a collaboration involving Lakehead University, Ryerson University, Actua and the NSERC/RIM chair.

• U of G's "Women in Academe" series, monthly networking sessions for female faculty, instructors and graduate students.

Davidson and her research team plan to expand the national network established through the chair with additional researchers and advocacy organizations, and to expand opportunities for young women to connect with mentors and role models.

“Our goal is to increase awareness among young women about the possibilities offered by a science education, and among parents and educators about perceptions and systemic barriers that need to change,” said Davidson.

University of Guelph president Alastair Summerlee said the partnership is a perfect fit for all involved.

"NSERC and RIM are committed to reaching out to students to increase their interest in these vital fields, and the University of Guelph has developed a reputation for innovation in engineering and science, and for making a difference by tackling difficult issues.”

Robert Crow, RIM vice-president of industry, government and university relations, added: “As a company built on talented people with great ideas, RIM recognizes the importance of encouraging the next generation to pursue science and engineering studies. That’s why we are pleased to support the NSERC/RIM Chair for Women in Science and Engineering and applaud the wonderful work they are doing to help women and girls discover the amazing opportunities in science and engineering.”

NSERC president Suzanne Fortier calls the chair "a wonderful program that has encouraged many young women to pursue the exciting opportunities that the natural sciences and engineering disciplines provide. The response from female students in high schools and universities has been fantastic, and we look forward to building on this momentum.”

First established by NSERC in 2003, the Chair for Women in Science and Engineering at the University of Guelph was renewed in 2008 for three years with RIM as the industry partner.

More information about the NSERC/RIM Chair for Women in Science and Engineering is available at

For media questions, Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338,, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982,

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