Today is International Women’s Day and it is only fitting that we reflect on the place of women within the academy and society in general. Over the decades of my academic career in developing and developed countries, I have seen major advances in the opportunities available to women. It is also encouraging to witness the increasing recognition of the importance of including women in all areas of our social and economic life. Women have embraced these opportunities and have made significant contributions to society; however, we have a long way to go.
Addressing the gender gap has benefits not only for women, but also for other marginalized and underrepresented communities as we move closer toward a more inclusive society.
Today’s world is facing complex challenges, and we need progressive solutions. We must ask ourselves: are we really getting the best talent when we’re leaving half of the talent on the sidelines? Research evidence, by Carnegie Mellon University and cited in Harvard Business Review, shows that women help to raise the collective intelligence of a group. With women at the table, innovation increases, creativity grows, and we create a stronger, more dynamic team of researchers to build solutions that impact lives and communities.
For far too long, the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields has been an issue in Canada and elsewhere. With International Women’s Day upon us, equity, diversity and inclusion at Ryerson amongst our faculty and our students are at the forefront of our thoughts.
We are encouraged by the presence of strong women leaders and researchers at Ryerson University. Examples of this innovative thinking is evident every day at Ryerson. Our female researchers are making important contributions, with some of them being our top research grant recipients. Their projects are creating knowledge and generating impactful change in our communities and abroad.
The next generation of female researchers are taking note and are forging ahead. For instance, in our Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science, young leader Amira Abdelrasoul is carving a path by innovating and creating new solutions for clean drinking water. In Ryerson’s Department of Chemistry and Biology, Stefanie Colombo’s work is showing how climate change is impacting our access to Omega 3 fatty acids from cold-water fish by negatively affecting their food source — algae.
Some students, like Nika Zolfghari, are taking the issue of equity to heart and working on projects like Pitch Black, an initiative that focuses on motivating girls as young as high school age to ensure that they don’t opt out of taking science classes, which could impact their long-term opportunities in STEM fields.
There is no shortage of outstanding women within the walls of our institution. All women need are the opportunities to succeed and make a difference in our world.
Photo credit: Gary Beechey