Celebrating women in STEM with Guelph IUPAC event

Posted on Wednesday, February 28th, 2024

Three women chemists, Emelia, Samantha and Maryanne, stand together smiling in Bullring at U of G.
Event organizers Emelia Schaafsma, Samantha Binkley and Dr. Maryanne Stones

More than 40 University of Guelph (U of G) faculty, staff and students came together at the Bullring on February 27 for the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) global women’s breakfast. An open panel discussion on being women in STEM followed in the afternoon.

Started in 2011 out of a desire to provide more networking opportunities for women in chemistry, IUPAC, a leading authority in chemistry research and terminology, hosts a Global Women’s Breakfast initiative in conjunction with the U.N. International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The event aims to help overcome gender barriers in science and provide connection for women in science. For event organizers in U of G's Department of Chemistry and the Tremaine Research Group, Dr. Maryanne Stones, Research Associate; Samantha Binkley, PhD Candidate; and Emelia Schaafsma, undergraduate student, the event’s purpose struck close to home.

Event attendees getting their breakfast“We wanted to encourage discussion about what it means to be a woman in STEM, both now and in the past, and celebrate women in STEM with our friends, allies and community,” says Stones, who has supported planning science initiatives on campus in the past, such as undergraduate poster sessions, graduate student events and Battle STEM.

The breakfast provided an opportunity for attendees to connect and learn from each other, celebrate achievements and raise awareness about challenges for women in STEM. IUPAC anticipates almost 400 breakfast and other celebratory events happened around the world on February 27, with an estimated 20 in Canada.

“We’re very fortunate to have a department that has more than a couple women in leadership positions in research, teaching and even as the department Chair. But there is still a large disparity in gender representation in the field of chemistry, which only grows as you move up the academic ladder,” says Binkley, who has also been involved in U of G events, such as the chemistry New Student Welcome, Battle STEM and other seasonal events.

“We wanted to discuss what might prevent young people, particularly young women, from entering science fields, and how we could help show the next generation that they should consider pursuing careers in areas like chemistry,” adds Schaafsma, a student in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Chemistry program.

An afternoon open seminar panel later explored ways to increase the visibility of women role models in chemistry and family planning alongside having a career in science academia.

Event attendees getting their breakfast Dr. Rui Huang, Assistant Professor, and Dr. Kate Stuttaford, Analytical and Physical Chemistry Lab Coordinator, both women in the Department of Chemistry (pictured along with Dr. Peter Tremaine), led the discussion with their own perspectives on being a woman in STEM.

“We would like to especially thank Jean Hein, Dr. Kathryn Preuss, Dr. Kate Stuttaford, Dr. Rui Huang and Dr. Peter Tremaine,” says Stones of event supporters. “We are very appreciative to have received support from the Department of Chemistry and CEPS Dean’s Office, as well as Women in Engineering, Chem Club, the Honey Bee Research Center, chemistry crochet group and alumna Elise Chung, M.Sc. who is very talented at pottery, who all donated prizes. Also, a big thank you to the Bullring for accommodating our event and providing a comfortable atmosphere for everyone to come together.”

In the fall, CEPS will host the annual Tremaine Visiting Speaker Series for Women in Science, an opportunity for the scientific community to learn from a renowned STEM expert. 

Group of attendees at breakfast smiling at the camera.

Group of three women attendees smiling at the camera.

Group of three women attendees smiling at the camera.

Group of attendees seated at tables and looking towards speakers

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