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Advancing Women's Leadership

SCWIST Is Making Strides for Gender Equality at the United Nations

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Dr. Poh Tan

President, SCWIST

Dr. Melanie Ratnam

Vice President & Director of Policy and Advocacy, SCWIST

Accelerating gender equality and the empowerment of women is a core aspect of SCWIST’s vision for the future.

In 2015, the United Nations committed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Goal five focused on gender equality and empowering women and girls by 2030. Eight years later, barriers continue to prevent women and girls from reaching their full potential.

For Dr. Poh Tan, President of SCWIST and Dr. Melanie Ratnam, Vice President and Director of Policy and Advocacy, this is an issue close to the heart.

Women in Stem

Poh, an entrepreneur, stem cell biologist, educator, and mother, has a twenty-year history of advocating for women and girls in STEM, while Melanie, a life science entrepreneur, neurobiologist and advocate, is deeply passionate about shaping government and workplace policies for women and girls in STEM.

“It’s estimated that 80 per cent of jobs in the next decade will require some knowledge of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), yet women and girls in continue to be underrepresented and held back in many different STEM sectors as a result of institutional and systemic biases that were created due to colonialism, industrialization, and historically dominant ways of thinking,” said Poh. “Thankfully, advancements and changes happening in today’s digital age are allowing innovators, researchers, scientists, governments and community organizations like SCWIST to come together to solve these challenges.”

SCWIST has been dedicated to creating an environment where women and girls are able to pursue their interests, education and careers in STEM without barriers since 1981, running a diverse range of high-impact programs, including mentorships, workshops, networking events, job boards, and advocacy work with the Government of Canada.

Moving the dial forward for women and girls in STEM

This work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Poh and Melanie were both invited to contribute at the United Nation’s 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) in New York. The priority theme for CSW67 was ‘Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls’. 

“Gender equity has been at the heart of SCWIST’s policy and advocacy work since SCWIST’s earliest years,” said Melanie. “I’ve spoken with women in STEM throughout Canada about the barriers they face. These conversations have been very influential when we outlined gender-responsive policy suggestions at the national, provincial, and municipal levels. When the proposal to address a widening gender gap in the digital era was presented by the UN Secretariat General, SCWIST was ready to put forward recommendations.”

Although much progress has been made for gender equity over the last decades, there is still much more work to be done. SCWIST will continue to be a steadfast agent of change through empowering programs such as Make Possible, Make Diversity Possible, STEM Streams and Supporting Safe STEM Workplaces. 

To learn more, visit scwist.ca.

Women in Stem
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