March 8 is International Women’s Day

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Friday, March 8 is International Women’s Day. This annual event provides an opportunity to celebrate woman’s achievements, their empowerment, and to promote gender equality.

International Women’s Day grew out of labour movement activities across North America and Europe at the turn of the 20thcentury and was recognized by the United Nations in 1975.

Women contribute greatly to the wealth and prosperity of Canada. Since the midpoint of the last century women’s participation and contribution has grown in professions previously occupied by men.

It’s true the historic differences between men and women have faded during the past decades. Unfortunately, there is one particular area where women are under-represented.

According to the Status of Women Canada website, women have not made significant advancements in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math, known as STEM.

How is that possible? In 1921 Elsie MacGill was asked to leave University of British Columbia’s engineering program due to her gender. She went on to become Canada’s first woman aeronautical engineer and aircraft designer.  In 1992, Dr. Roberta Bondar became the first Canadian woman and first neurologist in space. These women, along with so many more, are powerful role models for women entering STEM.

But in Canada only one in three STEM graduates are women. This is a lost opportunity for girls and women.

It is also a lost opportunity for our country. Canada along with other countries have an ongoing shortage in many STEM fields.

The government of Canada has launched initiatives to encourage women to enter STEM professions, including “Choose Science”, believing there has never been a better time for women to start into STEM.

This year’s International Woman’s Day theme is #InnovateForChange. The hope is when you know a woman making a difference in STEM use International Women’s Day to celebrate her achievements.

If you know a girl who is currently in grade school or high school, suggest they consider pursuing one of the STEM disciplines.

For some of these girls, there is a tremendous opportunity waiting for them.

We can all do our part to promote the advancement of women.