NSERC Women in Science &Engineering Chairs' Newsletter
Reports from the Five National Chairs March 1998

News from Across Canada

In this issue...



Monique Frize, NSERC/Nortel Joint Chair in Women in Science and Engineering (Ontario) held jointly at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa. The Chairholder began her new mandate in Ontario on July 1, 1997. The Chair is held jointly at University of Ottawa and at Carleton University. The Chairholder is expected to teach one course per term, alternating between the two universities, and between graduate and undergraduate courses. Monique is a Professor in the Systems and Computer Engineering Dept. at Carleton University and in the School of Information Technology and Engineering at the University of Ottawa.

At the University of Ottawa, Monique Frize taught a graduate course: "Health care Engineering" in the fall, and is teaching an undergraduate course "Professional Engineering Practice" at Carleton University during the winter term. Monique currently supervises six graduate students, including one PhD student and several undergraduate senior theses.


The overall objective is to increase the awareness of girls and young women on great job opportunities and well-paid interesting work in certain fields of engineering and science. Another goal is to ensure that young women understand the importance of economic independence for the future quality and control over their lives. The retention of women who have chosen these fields of study is the other major component of the work of the Chair.

Specific strategies are:

Some background information:

Monique Frize was involved in many aspects of the recruitement/retention issues during the past seven yesrs while holding the National Chair in Women in Engineering at the Universtiy of New Brunswick(1989-1997). In addition to this past experience, some recent studies (from others and her own) point out how outreach activities can have a very different impact on girls and on boys, and not surprisingly, several are having a much more positive impact on boys than on girls. Studies point out how particular single-sex activitiess have resulted in a very positive outcome for girls. This has enhanced the urgency for the Chairholder to develop some stratehies to improve our success in reaching girls. The activities described here will address theis question in the Ottawa/Carleton region, as a pilot project. The school presentations are all done by female role models, addressed to both girls and boys, because boys need to see successful women as muxh as girls do. Other activities are planned for female school students only. The approach should give positive results for both genders, and especially for girls and young women.

During the past few monthes, since her move to Ottawa Monique became involved with the "Pathmakers" program and is leading it this year. The Pathmaker program was originally funded by the Ontario Women's Directiorate, in its early years (around 1985). Unitil 1995/1996, the school boards each provided $150 annually. Then with funding cuts to the schools, some funding has come from faculties of Science and Engineering from the two universities in Ottawa. The budget supports taci fares for students to go to the schools. A few training sessions are held each fall. A grant has just been provided by the PEO, not only to keep the program running, but to expand dramatically its outreach into the community.

In 1997/98 the program has attracted over 260 women student volunteers. Several voluteers are from different cultures and this provides a wide diverstiy of backgrounds. The program is also currently adding, where possible, a woman engineer or scientist to accompany the student/s. This will provide a wider breadth of experience for both the presenting students and the school students. The women will be recruited from the Ottawa/Carleton WISE Chapter which hs become active again in November 1997.

What is a Pathmaker?

Pathmakers is a very unique partnership which brings together secondary and post-secondary institutions with business and industry in the Ottawa-Carleton area for mutual benefit. Female students in post-secondary science, technology and mathematics programs who are preparing for careers that are not traditionally chosen by women, are recruited and trained to act as role models for younger female students. Business, industry and education are working together to encourage young women to stay in school, to maintain studies in science, technology and mathematics, and to consider careers in these fields.

Everyone wins! Students become aware of the wide range of career options available and of the role of science, technology and mathematics in career decision-making. Employers have inputs into the education system to influence human potential and the future workforce. Role models hav eathe chance to make a contribution to the emerging generation. Educators assisted in delivering career-relevant information to students.

For schools girls about to make crucial cirriculum and career choices, role models can offer important encouragement. They can motivate students to explore their options and make informal decisions.

How does Pathmakers work?

This program provides information on careers in which women are underrepresented, training sessions for prospective role models and connections in a variety of settings for school girls and role models attending post-secondary institutions.

What kind of help can role models give?

The Pathmakers role models are young women like the students themselves. Their advice and experience will be especially relevant to the school girls they contact. A Pathmakers role model knows the decision-making process the student faces and is able to speak to her concerns directly.

The Committee members are (this year)
Doreen Smith, Faculty of Science, University of Ottawa
Monique Frize, SITE,University of Ottawa
Louise Mitchell, Algonquin College,
Cheryl Macauley, Status of Women Office, Carleton University
Gerri Scott, Ottawa Board of Education
Helene Parize, Lee Powell, and Claire...


On February 11, 1998, buses took 90 grade 10 young women to Nortel. The day began with a keynote presentation by Monique on career opportunities in science and engineering. Student volunteers from both universities, and from Algonquin College, and women engineers, scientists, and technologists from Nortel guided groups of 8-10 students through three different (and rotating) activities. One group built a Pinocchio nose, while other groups visited Nortel labs, and the remaining groups played a game (crossing a river with obstacles, dangers, etc.). At the end of the morning, students received a souvenir and were invited to a pasta feast lunch where role models and students mixed. The success and impact of this event was assessed through a questionnaire. The results were very positive so this effort will be repeated in years to come.

The Ottawa WISE Chapter has been relaunched

On November 24, 1997, an annual meeting and elections were held. The new executive comprises approximately half of the previous one with new members to complete the slate. This provides new impetus for activities and programs in the Ottawa-Carleton/Hull area. The elected members are (for a one-year term):

Past President: Anne Gribbon
President: Monique Frize
Vice-President: Susan Kolluru
Treasurer: Michele Low
Secretary: Jennifer Flanagan
Newsletter: Nathalie St-Denis-Byrne
Program: Colleen Ennett
Student Liaison: Paula Terpstra

You will be able to read the Ottawa WISE Chapter newsletter as a separate item on the Ontario chair's web site very soon. See it on the Wise Home Page.


Monique Frize has carried-out sessions with groups of parents to express the importance of obtaining their encouragement and support in offering wider career choices to their children. The talk also shows how stereotypes still exist, describes results of research showing how most out-of-school science activities still impact more positively on boys than on girls, and describes strategies to improve the success with girls. Three sessions were done in 1997 (Association of Parent of Bright Children, Ecole St-Joseph de Hull, and Riverview elementary school). Several more are planned in 1998. This approach helps to close the loop between getting the message to the students, and obtaining the support of the adults who can influence them. Emphasis is also placed on how to increase girls' and young women's self-confidence and self-esteem with regards to their skills in mathematics and science.

For more information contact:

Dr. Monique Frize, P. Eng.,
O.C. Faculty of Engineering, Carleton University
1125 Colonel By Drive,
Ottawa, ON,
K1S 5B5
tel: 613-520-2600 (8229);
fax: 520-5682
email address: moniquefrize@pigeon.carleton.ca

Dr. Monique Frize, P. Eng.,
O.C. Faculty of Engineering, University of Ottawa
161 rue Louis Pasteur,
Ottawa, ON
K1N 6N5
tel: 613-562-5800 (6065);
fax: 520-5682
email address: frize@site.uottawa.ca



Dr. M. Elizabeth Cannon is a Professor in the Department of Geomatics Engineering at the University of Calgary where she conducts research and teaching in the area of satellite navigation for land, air, and marine applications. Elizabeth has been involved with GPS since 1984 in both industrial and academic environments and has published over 80 papers. Elizabeth holds a B.Sc. in Mathematics from Acadia University as well as a B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D in Surveying Engineering from the University of Calgary. She is a Past President of the US Institute of Navigation.

Elizabeth has been awarded numerous literary awards for her work in satellite navigation and was also presented the 1993 YWCA Women of Distinction Award for Science and Technology. She was also awarded the APEGGA Early Achievement Award in April 1994 and the Canadian Council of Professional Engineers' Young Engineer Achievement Award in November, 1995.

Recently, Elizabeth was appointed the NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering for the Prairie Region where she works to promote science and engineering to girls and young women. Over the years, she has been involved with several activities that aim to mentor women engineering students and also attract women to the field of engineering in general. She is a Group Leader for the Engineering Connections Group with the University of Calgary's Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). She has organized school visits to speak to female students about careers in engineering and has also participated in Operations Minerva, a job shadowing program for Grade 8 girls.


Elizabeth Cannon has used the first 6 months of her position as Chair to begin to investigate resources in place to assist the aims of the Chair. One of the things one quickly realizes is that there is a vast network of information and resources available to promote science and engineering as careers in general, and for women, specifically.

In looking at some of these resources, the biggest question that has arisen is: What works? What programs or initiatives are successful in increasing the participation of women in careers in science and engineering? To that end, she has begun steps to collaborate with two professors in the Department of Sociology to undertake a study of students from Engineering, several disciplines in Science (those where women are well-represented and those where women are not) and several disciplines in Social Science. The purpose of the study will be to determine the predicting factors in men and women choosing engineering or science, rather than social science, as a major at University. She hopes to develop a definitive list of factors which can then be used to plan initiatives the Chair will undertake over the next four and a half years. In the first year, the focus is on engineering, to build on previous work already conducted on Science and Social Science majors.

The first meeting of the Advisory Council for the Prairie Chair met in November in Calgary. Representatives from Universities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, along with school teachers and industry stakeholders met for an interesting day of meetings and presentations by the Chair, three social scientists, and a management specialist. . Elizabeth is presently using a "pipeline" model to describe the various stages of the development of career paths for women in science and engineering. Within that, she has been examining the major "leaks" from the pipeline, potential points of re-entry, and the initiatives that might possibly be undertaken at each of these stages to encourage the participation of women.

In October, a luncheon sponsored by the Prairie Chair was held for women faculty in the Faculties of Science and Engineering at The University of Calgary. Many of the women took the opportunity to give voice to issues they feel are pertinent to the goal of encouraging and retaining women faculty members at the university.

Dr. Cannon is in the beginning stages of the development of a Calgary chapter of CAGIS, Canadian Association of Girls in Science. Providing information to girls early in the career decision process is a prime focus of the club. The club will expose girls to some of the many career possibilities for careers in science and engineering and provide women scientist and engineering role models.

In addition to those areas already mentioned, Dr. Cannon has presented information about the focus of the Chair in Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg at the Universities in each city. She has met with faculty and students and researchers in each center to gain a greater perspective on the issues pertinent to each area of the Prairie region. She has also discussed careers in science and engineering at numerous schools, at an Alberta Education science curriculum symposium, with community groups and at industry-sponsored events such as CASCON in Toronto (sponsored by IBM), which had a special Women in Technology session. She is also sponsoring the Engineering Connections group of WISE on the University of Calgary campus and has initiated several events, industry tours, and tutorials to assist women in Engineering to achieve success.



Maria Klawe is currently the Vice-President of Student and Academic Services at the University of British Columbia, having served as Head of the Department of Computer Science there from 1988 to February 1995. Her responsibilities as a senior vice-president include UBC's libraries, computing and communications, student services, housing, athletics, and the Chan Center for the Performing Arts. Maria also holds the NSERC-IBM Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, one of five regional chairs across Canada. Maria's chair is responsible for British Columbia and the Yukon, and emphasizes increasing the participation of women in information technology careers. Prior to joining UBC, Maria spent eight years with IBM Research in California, and two years at the University of Toronto. She received her Ph.D. (1977) and B.Sc. (1973) in Mathematics from the University of Alberta. She has made significant research contributions in several areas of mathematics and computer science including functional analysis, discrete mathematics, theoretical computer science, and interactive-multimedia for mathematics education. She is the founder and director of the Electronic Games for Education in Math and Science (E-GEMS) project, a large-scale collaborative project involving computer scientists, mathematics educators, teachers, children and professional game developers. She has also served on many boards and advisory councils, including the Board of Trustees of the American Mathematical Society (chair 1995-96), the Computing Research Association (vice-chair 93-95), and the BC Premier's Advisory Council on Science and Technology (93-present). Maria was elected as a Fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery in 1995, and received the Vancouver YWCA Women of Distinction Award in Science and Technology in 1997.


Maria Klawe, who holds the NSERC-IBM Chair for Women In Science and Engineering for BC and the Yukon, is a professor of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia as well as the UBC Vice President for Student and Academic Services. The focus of her chair is to increase the participation of women in information technology careers, and she has organized her chair activities into a project known as SWIFT, which stands for Supporting Women in InFormation Technology.

Over its first six months, SWIFT has begun work on four core initiatives which are very briefly described below. More details on the first three can be found at http://taz.cs.ubc.ca/swift

These initiatives include the following:

1. A survey to increase our understanding of high school and university students' attitudes towards various subject areas and information technology careers, as well as the factors they perceive as influencing their career choices. A pilot version of the survey was been given to 210 Vancouver high school students and 320 UBC students. Preliminary analysis of the data indicates that female students in both high school and university show substantially less interest and have lower expectations for success in computer science and engineering courses than male students. There was some evidence of similar responses to physics and mathematics courses, but the gender differences were smaller. We are now working on preparing the final version of the survey which we plan to give to a much larger sample of students.

2. A collection of resources to provide girls with information about information technology and increase their interest in computer-related activities. Our current projects include "day in the life" web pages describing young women working in a various information technology jobs, reviews of computer games aimed at girls, and a "Dear SWIFT" web page answering questions about information technology.

3. A joint university-industry pilot program known as ARC (Alternate Routes to Computing) to address the critical need for more highly qualified personnel in information technology, especially the need for individuals with superior communication and people skills, and additional expertise in areas outside computer science and engineering. At least half the ARC participants will be female; hence ARC will also help address the low participation by women in information technology careers. ARC will be a 24 to 28 month full-time program combining university computer science courses and information technology work experience that can be taken at either UBC or at SFU. The students entering ARC will be individuals who have completed a Bachelors degree and demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, but have little or no current experience in programming. We expect that several of these students will be women who completed a B.Sc. in computer science or mathematics several years ago but left the workforce to raise children and have found it difficult to re-enter because of the enormous changes that have occurred in technology.

4. Recruiting a new UBC computer science faculty member who will assist with the chair activities. At this point five candidates have already been interviewed, and three more interviews are scheduled. It has been a delight to have so many talented women computer scientists visiting our department and interacting with students and faculty.

In addition to these four primary efforts, the SWIFTers (as those working on SWIFT projects call themselves) have been busy with a number of other tasks as well. Maria and Grace Chen, the SWIFT coordinator, have given presentations on computer science and mathematics at several schools. Maria has given talks and met with faculty and students at Simon Fraser University and the University of Northern British Columbia. She has also given public lectures in Victoria and Prince George, and at several conferences and workshops. Our undergraduate coop students working for both SWIFT and the IBM Pacific Development Center (the industrial sponsor of the chair) are keeping journals of their experiences at IBM so that we can understand the factors encouraging and discouraging them in an information technology workplace.



Claire Deschênes, Ing., Ph.D. est la titulaire de la Chaire CRSNG/Alcan pour les femmes en sciences et génie au Québec. Son mandat d'une durée de cinq ans a débuté en octobre 1997. Première professeure en génie à l'Université Laval, elle enseigne depuis 1989.

Rattachée au département de génie mécanique, elle est spécialisée en mécanique des fluides appliquée aux turbines hydrauliques. Depuis quelques années, elle s'est aussi impliquée dans plusieurs comités d'études se préoccupant des femmes et d'autres groupes enquêtant sur la motivation et sur la persévérance des étudiantes. Mme Deschênes a également occupé la vice-présidence du syndicat des professeurs de son institution.

Femmes, sciences et technologie

Dégager une vision la plus claire possible du rapport actuel des filles et des femmes aux sciences et à la technologie à tous les âges de la vie

Un colloque:

Dans l'ensemble du milieu scolaire, on n'a plus à démontrer que les jeunes filles réussissent au moins aussi bien sinon plus que les garçons, et même dans les matières scientifiques. Les filles sont souvent plus persistantes à l'école primaire que les garçons. Pourtant, elles désertent les sciences physiques et appliquées en cours de route, avant l'arrivée à l'université ou même à l'université. Plusieurs jeunes filles s'orientent ailleurs que dans les carrières scientifiques, même lorsqu'elles avaient choisi d'étudier en sciences au secondaire et au CEGEP. D'autre part, des freins à l'arrivée massive des femmes dans les entreprises technologiques ou des difficultés dans le développement de leur carrière sont encore réels.

Que se passe-t-il donc entre l'école primaire et l'université qui décourage les filles de poursuivre leurs études en science et en génie, et seulement dans ces secteurs? Que vivent les femmes scientifiques lorsqu'elles sont sur le marché du travail? Existe-t-il des liens entre le rapport des individus à la science et à la technologie, les relations hommes/femmes, la faible présence des femmes dans les secteurs scientifiques et technologiques? Voilà des questions auxquels nos conférenciers invités tenteront de répondre au cours de cette journée.

Se déroulant dans le cadre du congrès annuel de l'Association canadienne-française pour l'avancement des sciences (www.acfas.ca), ce colloque aura lieu:

le mardi 12 mai 1998 à l'Université Laval

Activités de la Chaire CRSNG/Alcan pour les femmes en sciences et génie au Québec

L'objectif général de la chaire est d'une part, de promouvoir les professions en sciences et en génie auprès des jeunes femmes et d'autre part, sensibiliser les milieux de travail à la présence des femmes scientifiques. Trois types d'action sont entreprises pour atteindre ce double objectif de la chaire. Il y a d'abord les interventions directes de promotion des carrières scientifiques en milieux scolaires et les interventions de sensibilisation des milieux de travail susceptibles d'accueillir des femmes scientifiques. Un autre volet est consacré à la recherche sur tous les aspects de la présence des femmes en sciences naturelles et en génie : leur sous-représentation dans certaines disciplines, leurs profils différenciés quant à leur pratique en recherche, etc. Le troisième et dernier volet est occupé par le secteur des communications. Il s'agit principalement de colliger l'information pertinente au mandat de la chaire et de veiller à sa diffusion dans le réseau québécois.

Pour l'année académique 1997-98, les activités prioritaires de la chaire sont les suivantes :



La mise sur pied d'un colloque sur le thème Femmes, sciences et technologie@, au congrès de l'Acfas, Université Laval, le mardi 12 mai 98. Cette activité contribuera d'une part, à préciser le cadre de recherche de la chaire et d'autre part, à établir des liens précieux de collaboration avec les chercheures et chercheurs actifs dans les champs de recherche pertinents à la réalisation du mandat de la chaire (voir le programme qui suit).
Pour la revue Recherches féministes, la rédaction d'un compte rendu du livre, Femmes et sciences.
Au coeur des débats épistémologiques@, sous la direction de L. Dumais et V. Boudreau, Actes du colloque de Acfas-Outaouais 1996.
Recherches prévues à ce jour
L'élaboration d'une bibliographie commentée de la littérature sur les femmes en sciences.
La constitution d'une banque de données statistiques sur la représentation des femmes en sciences dans le système scolaire québécois.
Une demande de subvention stratégique CRSH, volet Femmes et Changement @, avec F. Harel Giasson des HEC à Montréal sur le thème: Femmes ingénieures et technologie: estime de soi et satisfaction en début de carrière@ (comme codirectrice).
Une étude sur la motivation étudiante à la faculté des sciences et de génie de l'Université Laval, différences hommes/ femmes.



F. M. (Mary) Williams

Dr. Mary Williams is a professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science at Memorial University in St. John's. Her research is aimed at determining the forces of ice on ships and offshore structures in the cold ocean environment. Understanding these forces is necessary for safe transportation and development in these areas, and also for protection of the ocean environment. Before coming to Memorial, Mary worked for the National Research Council of Canada, doing experiments and advising clients on the engineering effects of ice. Her work has involved many field trips to the Arctic, the Antarctic, and around Newfoundland.


Dr. Mary Williams joined Memorial University as the Atlantic Regional Chair in September 1997. Her initial work has been directed at identifying the principle issues around WISE (women in science and engineering) and establishing the personal contacts which influence the objectives of the Chair.

Long before the Chair was established at Memorial, there was an lively WISE organization in St. John's. This group of volunteers is a support and a resource for the Chair, and in return the Chair facilitates some of the activities of WISE. Communication is easy since WISE President Dr. Irene Meglis, and long time treasurer Karen Muggeridge both work in Engineering at MUN, and several other executive members are on campus. However we recognize the value of maintaining two separate organizations, and we have to work on establishing distinct identities (we still get each other's mail).

There is activity of different types throughout the Atlantic Region. A recent 'Atlantic Tour' familiarized Mary with some of these activities and opened up the prospects for regional cooperation.

Jane McGinn-Giberson, P.Eng., is the Assistant Chair at University of New Brunswick, and also Assistant Dean of Engineering there. Jane has a high profile among the Engineering students at UNB, and is also well known in the community for her work in Worlds Unbound Engineering and Science Camp for Children, in high school outreach programs, and in programs to foster public understanding of science and engineering. UNB is already a prominent feature on the 'Women in Engineering' landscape because of Dr. Frize's seven year tenure there as National Chair, and because of the landmark 'More Than Just Numbers' Conference held there.

University College Cape Breton in Sidney, Nova Scotia does not have a formal structure to encourage WISE, but it would be an ideal location for an Assistant or Associate Chair. UCCB has an exciting mix of innovative curriculum and youth and community outreach programs. The curriculum features interdisciplinary programs and relevant context, both of which help to make science and engineering interesting for women. The community programs promote greater science and technology awareness, and provide a route for girls to get involved.

People in and around Halifax-Dartmouth are happy that the Women in Science group there is waking up, thanks in large part to coordination by Dr. Sherry Niven and encouragement from Brigitte Neumann at the NS Advisory Council on the Status of Women. The organization's new name wins the prize for the best acronym of the year: the Association of Nova Scotia Women for Education and Research in Science. ANSWERS has local projects and a national link through CCWEST. Dr. Georgia Pe-Piper at St. Mary's University, who has worked steadily for years to encourage women in academic settings, is also a member of ANSWERS.

There are, of course, many other groups working on WISE issues, in large centres and small throughout the Atlantic Region. Mary looks forward to meeting all of them in person, and to introducing them in future newsletters.

Back at the office, Mary is working out an assessment of current status and high level strategy for achieving the objectives of the Chair. She hopes to develop this in widening circles as a strategy for the province and the region, and eventually to blend it with the strategies of the other chairs to form a national strategy. This strategy will be an important topic of discussion at the CCWEST conference in Vancouver in May.