Attracting Women to Science, Engineering Goal of Conference

May 22, 2008 - News Release

Some of the brightest Canadian women in science are coming to the University of Guelph May 29 to 31 for the 12th annual Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology (CCWESTT) conference.

CCWESTT is a coalition of groups striving to make it easier for businesses, governments and schools to attract and keep women studying and working in science, engineering, trades and technology.

The theme of this year's national conference is "Building on Success," and the goal is to change the face of science and engineering in Canada.

“The fact is, there are not enough women in science, engineering or the trades in this country, and we’re all the worse off for it,” said conference host and engineering professor Valerie Davidson.

“This conference is all about strengthening the role of women in those fields by giving them an opportunity to meet, talk shop and examine how to not just survive but also thrive. We’ll have students, educators, business leaders and a wide range of women who work with science and technology. It's a great chance to meet and draw inspiration from some incredible role models.”

Keynote speakers include Suzanne Fortier, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC); Mary Lawson, whose career in the development industry led her to head the Canadian Home Builders' Association in 2004; and Anne Sado, who took over as president of George Brown College after 25 years in engineering and executive positions at Bell Canada.

On May 31, Deb Matthews, Ontario minister responsible for women’s issues, will speak at a conference luncheon.

There will also be information on the progress of the Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology project (WinSETT). Started in 2003, WinSETT is aimed at furthering the recruitment, retention, advancement and celebration of women in science, engineering, trades and technology. The ultimate goal of the project is to establish a permanent self-supporting centre to effect significant change in the composition of the Canadian labour force.

The CCWESTT 2008 conference also includes an innovative two-day daughters' program designed for daughters of the conference participants. This mini-science camp for children aged seven to 14 will offer a taste of science without the pressure of classrooms, tests or homework.

“This program grew organically,” said Davidson. “At the last conference, several participants brought their daughters along, and an informal program was set up for them. They loved it so much that we decided to have parallel sessions and some common activities for daughters at this conference. CCWESTT has a strong focus on making science attractive to girls and young women, and this seemed a perfect opportunity to put that into practice.”

The conference is taking place with the support of NSERC and its Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering program. The goals of the NSERC program are to increase the participation of women in science and engineering and provide role models for women considering careers in these fields. All five NSERC chairs will present at the conference, exploring topics ranging from attracting aboriginal women into the sciences to discovering new ways to teach science and engineering to young women.

For conference information, contact Jenny Fender at 519-824-4120, Ext. 53674, or visit the CCWESTT website.

Timothy Grier
Media Liaison

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1