PhD Student, Computer Science, University of British Columbia
PhD student, University of Toronto, & Co-founder Genuine Taste
Chief Programs & Policy Officer, Mitacs
Mitacs’s investments in research and entrepreneurship allow women to have sustainable careers in STEM across Canada.
Women’s visibility for their contributions to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has gradually improved over the years as governments, academic institutions, and businesses put funding into their equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives.
Canadian non-profit research organization Mitacs is contributing to this change by addressing pay inequities in STEM. In 2022, Mitacs provided grant funding for innovative research and internships to over 15,000 individuals, 44 per cent of whom identified as women.
Studies show that the pay gap between men and women in STEM starts at 17 per cent and grows to 21 per cent as education and experience increase in Canada. Women are also less likely to be awarded the equivalent grants as men and are often provided with fewer resources (such as lab space, equipment, and interns) for their research. Additionally, women carry higher responsibilities to mentor and teach.
Through grant funding, Mitacs propels women in STEM by providing a source for appropriate compensation, access to adequate resources, and the opportunity to tap into a dynamic network of innovators.
Providing viable career avenues for women in research
Inverted AI is a startup that makes human non-playable characters for autonomous vehicle simulation. Frank Wood, CEO of Inverted AI and an associate professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC), shares that Mitacs’s funding helps make it possible to have a robust and diverse research team by offering researchers more and fairer compensation.
Thanks to Mitacs’s support, Inverted AI was able to attract talented researcher Xiaoxuan Liang who is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Science at UBC. Through her Mitacs internship with Inverted AI, she took part in invaluable learning experiences which broadened her application of STEM research.
“Mitacs takes proactive steps to recognize and celebrate women’s achievements, which promotes an inclusive environment where diversity is valued,” says Liang.
Enabling women to pursue entrepreneurship in STEM
The majority of women-owned small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Canada have lower success rates compared to the majority of men-owned SMEs across industries. Mitacs recognizes this barrier and has supported startup businesses like Genuine Taste with access to funding.
Emily Farrar, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, co-founded Genuine Taste. Through her research, she figured out how to recreate animal fat using stem cell biology in order to improve the taste, texture, and nutrition of alternative meats. She explains that the cost of ingredients to culture cells and repetitively conduct experiments is expensive. Mitacs funding helped to cover these expenses, allowing Farrar and the team at Genuine Taste to develop a minimum viable product and to secure their first global consumer packaged goods customer.
According to Farrar, one of the biggest challenges to successful entrepreneurship is understanding the ecosystem and building a network. To this end, Mitacs supported Genuine Taste by providing funding that enabled the team to build industry connections internationally and to pitch their product abroad.
Improving Canada’s research and innovation portfolio internationally
In Canada, women make up only 23 per cent of the STEM workforce, which pales in comparison to the European Union’s 43 per cent representation of women in STEM. For Canada to expand its innovation presence internationally, women must be better represented and positioned in the workforce.
“At Mitacs, we understand that diverse perspectives are essential in driving inclusive innovation,” says Anne-Marie Thompson, Mitacs’s Chief Programs and Policy Officer. “We know that women play a crucial role in Canada’s innovation landscape, bringing much-needed talent to science and technology organizations nationwide. Through the consistent evaluation of our program offerings, Mitacs is working hard to create meaningful and accessible opportunities for research and talent across equity-deserving groups, including women.”
Through strategic investments in research across provinces, Mitacs provides competitive opportunities for women in STEM and pushes innovation forward internationally.
To learn more about how Mitacs is bringing innovation into reach, visit mitacs.ca.