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Lindsay Jones

Lindsay Jones

Outreach Coordinator, Connections

Desuree DeGagne

Desuree DeGagne

Outreach Coordinator, Connections

There’s a national conversation going on about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. Policymakers, educators, and business leaders across the country agree: it’s critical that Canadian youth pursue education and careers in STEM to become the innovators, entrepreneurs, and engaged citizens that Canada needs.

Unfortunately, whether due to a lack of confidence, insecurity in male-dominated spaces, or self-identifying less with STEM topics, women are far less prevalent than men in STEM fields.

“Women are underrepresented through the STEM pipeline and representation decreases as they progress from high school to post-secondary study and then into the labour market,” says Lindsay Jones. Jones is an Outreach Coordinator at Connections, a Queen’s University Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science educational outreach program that works to engage girls from kindergarten to grade 12 with STEM education, activities, and mentorship opportunities. 

Young girls at Connections raising their hands in a STEM lesson

Females encouraging females

“All Connections programming for girls is designed and led by female undergraduate students or Connections staff,” says Desuree DeGagne, another of Connections’ Outreach Coordinators. “We want young girls to see older girls represented in STEM.” 

“It’s all about females encouraging females and creating a safe environment,” adds Jones.

The program uses a mentorship model, allowing undergraduate students to become role models for teenagers and high school students to become role models for younger youth. This provides opportunities for young women to develop leadership skills and builds girls’ confidence.

While Connections tries to increase the university’s profile and get girls excited about STEM, the team doesn’t try to steer women toward studying engineering at Queen’s specifically — getting girls involved in any STEM field is reward enough. “We’re just trying to support females,” says DeGagne. “Moving forward, we’re hoping to break barriers and help establish gender parity in STEM. If we can convince one girl to choose a STEM field, whether it’s engineering at Queen’s or another program at another institution, we consider that meaningful progress.”

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