Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: 42 Perspectives on the Reality of Women

UQTR Professor Emeritus Louise Lafortun and Audrey Grolot, UQTR Professor, are interested in the position of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Together with Claire Deschen, professor emeritus at Laval University, they ledWomen in STEM Manifesto to highlight the reality of these women.

This Manifesto must be positive but also effective because there is still a long way to go towards fairness and equality for women in STEM. The texts are short, easy to read and accessible.

It contains reflections from 42 authors and groups from schools, universities, and the private sector who are working with women in the STEM field in Canadian Francophones.

“There is progress. We see more women in this area, but we need to understand why women are also leaving the field and how to keep them. For example, work-family balance is an issue, and in order to support women, it needs to be ensured that grant application mechanisms are treated differently. Currently, if a woman has little scientific output, it negatively affects her career, explains Louise Lafortune, co-author of the book. In some sectors, the number of women in STEM is increasing, but in the field of engineering and artificial intelligence, in particular, this number remains the same. »

This Manifesto provides an opportunity to address various issues such as equality, diversity, inclusiveness, caring for doubly minority women (eg, indigenous and non-heterosexual women) in STEM, and intersectionality. Part of the book also focuses on pandemic issues related to the place of women in STEM and the impact this pandemic will have on women in STEM in the future. “We wanted to stop asking questions like does science have a gender? Are women capable of excelling in mathematics in the same way as men? We wanted to respond to comments often reported that women are not interested in science and math. But if we removed obstacles or micro-aggressions, they would undoubtedly show more interest in these areas,” notes Ms. Lafortune.

The Women in STEM Manifesto concludes with a series of seven recommendations, ranging from developing a comprehensive and evolving portrait of women in STEM to developing a mentoring program with pioneering women working in STEM. We would like this to be discussed in the classroom, in families, with counselors. We would like this to spark discussion and reflection in the community. »

Audrey Grolo

But what comes out of reading a lot is the need to get to know women who work or have worked in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and to recognize their work.

“Hence the importance of properly documenting women’s STEM initiatives and knowing the statistics,” insists Audrey Grolot, professor at UQTR and co-director of Manifesto. There is also text on the importance of keeping records of what women have done in the field. Note that this is not taken into account in the archives. To know women’s contribution to STEM, we need to be able to go back in time. This is an important aspect of the recommendations issued. »

Ms. Lafortun also points out that the research and papers produced by women in STEM between the 1980s and 2000s are not always found online. “It would be interesting to put these documents, for example, in PDF and make them available somewhere. It would have avoided what had already been done and was innovative at the time,” she explains.

The co-leaders would like the words contained in the Manifesto to be discussed in class, with families, and with counselors.

“In the manifesto, we address the issue of education. Measures need to be taken to encourage girls to choose STEM without limiting them, especially with stakeholders, parents, teachers and counselors. We make subtle gestures that make young girls think that it is not so important for them to excel in science,” explains Louise Lafortune.

“These little gestures can be like a mother telling her daughter to consult her father on a math question rather than finding the solution herself with her child. When you’re a parent, it’s normal that you don’t always have a solution in a few seconds. Finding a solution together with the child shows that this is normal,” she explains.

“Our colleagues in feminist studies often talk about generic sexism,” Audrey Grolo continues. It’s about revisiting all those little elements to transform them to create leverage and opportunities for all the people who want to pursue a career in STEM. »

The public is encouraged to sign the Manifesto at www.uqtr.ca/manifeste.femmes.stim. It can be purchased from the Éditions JFD website.

Louise Lafortun and Audrey Grolot hope that this Manifesto will create a grand event where people from different perspectives can reflect on these questions and the recommendations made.