The Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) National Conference, taking place Jan. 26 and 27 at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle, aims to empower, inspire and connect more than 500 science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students and professionals from across Canada.
The annual two-day conference, founded seven years ago by the U of T chapter of WISE, allows participants to learn from notable speakers, network with industry professionals and expand their skills in technical competitions and workshops.
The theme for this year’s discussions and events will be “Catalysts for Change,” a timely look into the achievements of women in STEM and what lies ahead for women in today’s shifting engineering landscape.
According to Engineers Canada, the number of women in the profession more than doubled in the decade between 2006 and 2016. However, women still make up only 13 per cent of licensed engineers.
Writer Erica Rae Chong sat down with WISE conference chair Victoria Cheng (Year 4 EngSci) to learn more about what to expect at this year’s conference.
This year’s theme is Catalyst for Change. What message are you trying to convey to other women interested in STEM?
We want to communicate that by working together, women in STEM can overcome barriers and inspire others to catalyze change in their schools or workplaces, creating a cumulative effect that will hopefully spread throughout the entire industry as a whole.
This is the seventh year of WISE National Conference — what’s different? What can participants look forward to at this year’s event?
We are so excited to be running the biggest WISE National Conference yet! This year, more than 500 people will be attending the conference, including a multitude of talented panelists, influential keynotes, and incredible sponsor companies.
Our featured speakers include physician-surgeon and astronaut candidate, Dr. Shawna Pandya, physicist and fashion designer, Dr. Kitty Yeung, as well as former CEO of the MaRS Discovery District, Dr. Ilse Treurnicht just to name a few.
Gender equality and representation in STEM continues to be an important and ongoing conversation. How will this impact discussions at the conference?
Our speakers come from a variety of different STEM backgrounds and are at various points in their careers, from recent graduates to industry veterans. The discussions will be centered around their experiences, the challenges they have faced and the advice they may have. We will also be exploring their predictions of the future challenges of their respective industries.
During the talks, we have allocated plenty of time for audience questions, so that attendees can ask the speakers what they want to know and really drive the discussions at the conference in the direction that they desire.
Why did you want to become the chair of this conference? Why are you passionate about the issues in which WISE engages?
I believe that it’s important to bring together women and allies from different backgrounds and experiences so that we can bond over common interests and share perspectives and stories.
Sharing and collaborating are essential for defining the challenges that women face and for generating the best solutions. Every person participating in the discussion can then bring back what they’ve learned, and implement the solutions in their environment, whether that is at work, home or school.
More information about the WISE National Conference: https://www.conference.wiseuoft.org.