12/13/2014 12:06 EST | Updated 02/12/2015 05:59 EST

It's Time for Canada's Women to Lead in STEM Fields


Depending on who you ask, women who want to work in technology industry face significant obstacles or emerging opportunities. According to the latest study done by Statistics Canada,Education in Canada: Attainment, Field of Study and Location of Study, young women aged 25 to 34 held a larger share of university degrees (59.1 per cent), compared with 47.3 per cent among the older age group of 55 to 64, yet almost eight in 10 Registered Apprenticeship certificates were held by men. Canadian women still have a big part to play in terms of opportunities, particularly in the fields of Science Technology Engineering and Math, commonly known as STEM fields.

In order to change the gender gap in all professions, careers in STEM in particular need to be a matter of choice and not based on the ability which was historically classified by gender. It is through 21st Century learning, which incorporates critical thinking and hands on education, that our young women need to be exposed to in order to realize options available to their future careers. It is through encouraging girls and young women to test ideas and realize not only the challenges but also the opportunities STEM fields offer in order to be innovative in these fields.

How are we going to see such changes take place in Canada? We know about Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In movement which started with a book discussing women's roles in society, at work and at home, while encouraging them to go for the opportunities available to them. This was a great start for all of us who are working hard for gender equality. Not sure about you, but as a Canadian woman I am always looking for successful Canadian women to look up to and I was thrilled to hear about how Twitter hired a woman who in the past had proven her ability to rise above challenges during her career in the media.

Kirstine Stewart has proven once again that it is Our Turn as women to reclaim success in careers which are traditionally expected to be lead by men. Starting as the head of Twitter Canada and now Twitter's VP of North American Media, I am hopeful that more women will become positive role models for the next generation to come.

As part of my job to raise awareness about young women's education in STEM while promoting stakeholder's involvement in the support of STEM education in Canada, I get to sit down and discuss topics such as best practices and opportunities available to girls and young women in STEM.

As the leader for Canadian women in Technology, Kirstine Stewart confirmed that parents need to encourage girls by removing barriers so that women do have the opportunity to stand up and take their turn to leadership. Additionally, the education system needs to get beyond the traditional way of teaching and introduce technology in the classrooms.

Furthermore, we women who are already involved in STEM fields need to lead by example and stand up by living what we do. Allowing ourselves to let go of inhibition we will naturally help other people more. This is true for being able to lead by example so that the future generation of women in STEM can see that this is their turn to lead. Young women, who have a vast interest in STEM, getting involved in programs and classes which will open up opportunities later on in life is a great way to give themselves the edge to new possibilities.

Should the conversation keep going while encouraging young women to lead, we will be looking forward to a more collaborative form of leadership. The key message from this when discussing the upcoming book, Our Turn, which Kirstine Stewart is planning on publishing next year, is for young women to realize that it doesn't matter where they are in their life, when they have got something to contribute, to just do it.

And it is by contributing that they will get something back in return (success) and that will lead them to a path where they get to choose (their career) and not let someone else chose it for them.


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