BY JULIE AITKEN, P.GEOPH.
The International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists
is a dynamic international conference, which occurs every
three years in a different location around the world. Canada's
first such international conference, ICWES12, was recently
held in our nation's capital, Ottawa, from July 27 to July
APEGGA was a bronze sponsor of this event, the 12th of its
Hosted by the University of Ottawa and Carleton University,
the conference worked under the theme Women in a Knowledge
Based Society. Chair of ICWES12 was Monique Frize, P. Eng.,
O.C. Dr. Frize is an eminent professor of bio-medical engineering
at the University of Ottawa and one of five NSERC/Industry
Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering.
It truly was an international event as the 500-plus attendees
represented more than 44 countries, including Canada, the
U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa.
ICWES12 brought together not only a global audience of female
and male engineers, scientists and students but also social
scientists researching issues concerning women scientists
and engineers. The conference offered a venue for everyone
interested in studying and promoting the achievements of women
Invited speakers included Monique Begin, Jim P. Bruce, Julie
Payette, Dr. Claudine Simson and Dr. Miriam Stewart.
The program included more than 200 technical and non-technical
papers, 13 panel discussions, two timely and pertinent symposiums,
three roundtable discussions and five workshops. Topics ranged
from environmental issues and scientific policy to youth programs
and career development, from health issues to strategies on
how to achieve a work-life balance. Issues facing women already
in scientific careers, as well as those that encourage young
women to pursue science, are truly universal.
Several authors/speakers in attendance from Alberta included
Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, P.Eng., NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair (Prairie
Region) from the University of Calgary; Lisa Carter from the
Alberta Women's Science Network, and Karen Decontie, P.Eng.,
a structural engineer for the Government of Canada.
In addition, Kathy Sendall, P. Eng., senior vice-president
with Petro-Canada and an APEGGA member, was keynote speaker
at the opening ceremony. She told the story of the Famous
Five who successfully initiated the Persons Case before the
Supreme Court of Canada and eventually to the Judicial Committee
of England's Privy Council.
The decision recognized "persons" to include both
male and female genders, and allowed women to be appointed
to the Senate. Due to the work of the Famous Five Foundation,
a set of Women are Persons statues depicts these extraordinary
pioneers (Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney,
Irene Parlby and Nellie McClung), gracing the Olympic Plaza
in Calgary and Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
Emily Murphy was once quoted as rallying women "to stand
very erect and to feel ourselves equal to high and splendid
braveries." This strong sentiment echoed throughout the
conference and became the unofficial mantra.
An excellent handbook for women in science, engineering and
technology is Becoming Leaders by F. Mary Williams and Carolyn
J. Emerson and published by the NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair for
Women in Science and Engineering, and Women in Science and
Engineering Newfoundland and Labrador. The book is filled
with practical and useful strategies, backed by research and
Becoming Leaders provides the tools to take ownership and
move forward in your studies, career and personal life, as
well as in your role as mentor, supervisor or executive. Copies
of the book are available at the Calgary and Edmonton APEGGA
offices at a nominal cost of $10.
The conference provided a venue for the establishment of the
International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists. This
organization will oversee future ICWES conferences, establish
a website for information sharing, provide women an international
voice, and develop an international base of financial support.