Female Scientists Are Real People!
Introducing Girls to Science Careers


The residential Science and Technology Careers Workshop held in Peterborough, Ontario, in May, 1990, was a collaborative venture coordinated by Trent University and Sir Sandford Fleming College. Developed as a three-day workshop in 1989, it was expanded to six days in 1990, and attracted 40 girls in grades 9 to 11 from areas in Ontario as far apart as Sioux Lookout and St. Thomas.

Girls were chosen for the workshop because they felt hindered by traditionally male-dominated careers, family beliefs, and peer pressure.

Over 200 young women were nominated by their science teachers to participate in the workshop. They were chosen not on the basis of outstanding academic achievement in high school science labs, nor were they necessarily consistent winners at science fairs. On the contrary, these young women had expressed a genuine desire to explore science either because of a lack of exposure in high school, or because of stereotyping imposed by family, friends or teachers. The opportunity to study science in a university or college setting provided the girls with a challenging environment to comfortably and creatively explore careers in science. The program emphasized small group interaction and cooperative peer learning. The girls worked daily in labs with female undergraduate students who served as role models and mentors.

The topics were geared to be challenging, stimulating, and representative of university and college level work. A completely hands-on approach was used to tackle such topics as nuclear radiation, stream ecology, forestry, toxicology, fluvial geomorphology (the geological study of rivers), robotics, archaeology, spectroscopy, cartography, and art conservation. Indeed, in evaluation, the students preferred active projects to those which were more theoretical. One student said the projects "helped to take the complexity from certain problems and show that much of science is within the grasp of a logical, curious mind."

One of the main emphases of the workshop was an attempt to break down the barriers caused by gender stereotyping. As I mentioned, many of the girls were chosen for the workshop because they indicated that they felt hindered by factors such as traditionally male-dominated careers, family beliefs, and peer pressure. A gender stereotyping panel discussion was held early in the workshop.

The presenters, who included a female electronics student from the college, posed questions to encourage students to think about gender and science such as: How many famous women scientists can you name? Why are there so few? What is the ratio of male science teachers to female science teachers at your school? Why? Are science and emotions compatible?

Les scientifiques femmes sont des vraies personnes! Mattre au courant les
jeunes filles des carrières scientifiques existant


En Ontario, depuis 1989, l'Atelier sur les sciences et la technologie a permis à quarante jeunes filles de la neuvième à la onzième année d'étudier les carrières scientifiques existant pendant plusieurs jours à l'Université Trent et au collège Sir Sandford Fleming. On choisit davantage les participantes en fonction de leur envie d'explorer les sciences que de leurs résultats scolaires.

Ces élèves du niveau secondaire travaillent tous les jours avec des étudiantes du premier cycle et du collège. Elles acquièrent ainsi une expérience sur le tas à propos de sujets aussi divers que la radiation nucléaire, la robotique, l'industrie forestière, etc. Au tout début du programme, est organisée une discussion avec un échantillon d'experts pour analyser les clichés attachés à chaque sexe. Les réalités que cette discussion met au jour sont le point du départ de la soirée consacrée aux carrières scientifiques. Au cours de cette soirée, des femmes de la localité parlent de leur éducation et de leur cheminement professionnel en tant que médecins, ingénieurs ou dans d'autres domaines scientifiques.

La clé de l'immense stimulation ressentie par les participantes est due au fait que le programme est axé sur elles. Les commentaires des jeunes filles sont encourageants : "Oui, je suis capable de devenir ingénieur et je suis certaine que j'aimerais beaucoup cette profession".

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