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Margaret-Ann Armour & WISEST – An Incredible Legacy in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in STEM and the Work Still To Do


Abstract and Figures

Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour was a visionary and leader in addressing the issue of gender discrimination in STEM. She was instrumental in creating WISEST – Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science and Technology – in 1982 which was one of the first programs in Canada intentionally designed to increase the participation of women and girls in STEM career paths. Since then, this innovative organization has designed several programs featuring hands-on learning and mentoring that reduce barriers and empower people from underrepresented and marginalized groups to pursue education and careers in STEM fields. This review provides a template for WISEST programs, discusses their impact on diversity in STEM, and highlights the work still to be done.
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Margaret-Ann Armour and WISEST an incredible legacy in
advancing women in science, technology, engineering, and
mathematics (STEM) and the work still to do
Fervone Goings, Nicole L. Wilson, Ale Equiza, Lianne M. Lefsrud, and Lisa M. Willis
Abstract: Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour was a visionary and leader in addressing the issue of gender inclusivity and discrimina-
tion in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She was instrumental in creating WISEST Women in
Scholarship, Engineering, Science, and Technology in 1982, which was one of the rst programs in Canada intentionally
designed to increase the participation of women and girls in STEM career paths. Since then, this innovative organization
has designed several programs featuring hands-on learning and mentoring that reduce barriers and empower people from
underrepresented and marginalized groups to pursue education and careers in STEM elds. This review provides a template
for WISEST programs, discusses their impact on diversity in STEM, and highlights the work still to be done.
Key words: gender,EDI,education,unconsciousbias.
Résumé : La D
Margaret-Ann Armor était une visionnaire et lune des premières à se pencher sur la question de linclusion
et de la discrimination fondée sur le sexe dans les domaines des sciences, des technologies, du génie et des mathématiques
(STGM). Elle a joué un rôle déterminant dans la création, en 1982, du mouvement Women in Scholarship, Engineering, Science
and Technology (WISEST). Ce programme a été lun des premiers au Canada à être conçu dans le but daccroître la participa-
tiondesfemmesetdeslles aux parcours de carrière en STGM. Depuis lors, cet organisme novateur a mis de lavant plu-
sieurs programmes dapprentissage pratique et de mentorat qui réduisent les barrières et donnent lassurance nécessaire
aux personnes des groupes sous-représentés et marginalisés pour poursuivre leur formation et leur carrière dans les
domaines des STGM. Dans cet article de synthèse, nous présentons un modèle de programmes WISEST à émuler, nous discu-
tons de lincidence de ces programmes sur la diversité en STGM et nous mettons en évidence le travail qui reste à
Mots-clés : sexe,EDI,education,biaisinconscient.
Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour often said We must do science as if
people matter. This simple but powerful message was originally
stated by one of Dr. Armours role models, Canadian physicist Dr.
Ursula Franklin,
and inspired Dr. Armours long-standing com-
mitment to focusing on all people mattering equally in science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workplaces
and in STEM work itself. For Dr. Armour, the statement had pro-
found philosophical and practical implications for how she con-
structed her research programme, focused her administrative
and outreach innovations, and challenged broader societal biases.
To describe her approach towards dismantling systemic sexism,
Dr. Armour talked about owers and earthworms. If a ower fails
to bloom, we intuitively recognize that the environment needs
enriching: better soil, different moisture, different light. Similarly,
if a person fails to ourish, it is not a problem with the person;
the system needs changing. So, how do we begin to change the
systemic environment? Dr. Armour described herself as an earth-
worm, enriching the soil so that others could ourish. In line with
this metaphor, for over a quarter of a century, Dr. Armour was one
of Canadas ambassadors of science, volunteering tirelessly to raise
national awareness among girls, educators, parents, and employers
of the importance of encouraging girls, women, and people from
multiple underrepresented and marginalized groups to enter sci-
ence, technology, engineering, andmathematics.
In Canada and elsewhere in the world, STEM graduates are
essential drivers of innovation. However, women have histori-
cally been and continue to be underrepresented in STEM
disciplines and it is particularly evident in decision-making posi-
tions in academia and industry.
This underrepresentation exists
at the same time as marginalization, the treatment of someone as
insignicant or peripheral, and starts in childhood regardless of
academic achievement in school.
The need to eliminate girlsand
womens underrepresentation and marginalization in education
Received 31 July 2020. Accepted 25 May 2021.
F. Goings. WISEST, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.
N.L. Wilson. Ofce of the Dean, Faculty of Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.
A. Equiza. Ofce of Advancement, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.
L.M. Lefsrud. Lynch School of Engineering Safety and Risk Management, Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Faculty of Engineering,
University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.
L.M. Willis. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.
Corresponding author: Fervone Goings (email:
This paper is part of a special issue to honour Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour.
Copyright remains with the author(s) or their institution(s). Permission for reuse (free in most cases) can be obtained from
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Can. J. Chem. Downloaded from by University of Alberta on 08/19/21
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ensuring equal access to all education levels as well as womens
representation in leadership roles has been recognized by the
United Nations in its Sustainable Development Goals to transform
the world.
Furthermore, students with strong interdisciplinary, an-
alytical, and strategic problem-solving skills skills that are devel-
oped through STEM education will be better prepared for a
future characterized by a rapid development of technology,
implications for changing womens underemployment globally.
Increasing womens representation in STEM occupations can
increase womens earning potential, economic security, and
even their salary relative to that of men.
It is therefore critical
that we identify, understand, and remove the systemic issues that
continue to affect girlsand womens attraction, retention, promo-
tion, and long-term success.
One of the major drivers behind womens underrepresentation
in STEM is the bias and discrimination that starts in childhood
and persists throughout a womanscareer.
The Canadian In-
stitutes for Health Research states that, gender refers to the
socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities
of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people. It inuen-
ces how people perceive themselves and each other, how they
act and interact, and the distribution of power and resources in
There is considerable diversity in how individuals
and groups understand, experience, and express gender beyond
the binary (girl/woman and boy/man) and sex assigned at birth,
including gender nonbinary and transgender persons. Gendered
expectations consistent with gender stereotypes are placed on
children as soon as they begin playing with toys; marketing for
girls is focused on dolls, cooking, and beauty, whereas for boys, it
is focused on science, building, and violence (e.g., toy guns).
the time girls reach high school, they are excelling in STEM sub-
jects yet at the same time are less likely to picture themselves as
scientists, mathematicians, or engineers.
As a result, women
comprise only 38% of the students enrolling in STEM degrees at
Canadian universities, despite the fact that they represent 52% of
high school graduates.
Gendered expectations also disenfran-
chise boys, who are steered away from feminineprofessions
like nursing and nutrition,
and gender non-binary and trans-
gender students, who are not valued in the traditional male/
female paradigm and experience higher rates of gender-based
It is also important to recognize the multiple inter-
secting identities that have a substantial impact on peoples lived
experiences, including ones race, disability, sexual orientation,
and socioeconomic background to name a few.
Emerging research
on STEM professionals is bringing understanding to workplace
experiences from an intersectional lens, including for Black women
and people in the LGBTQ2S+ communities
and it is clear that
there is much work to be done.
Dr. Armours vision and mission
When Dr. Armour began as professor in the chemistry depart-
ment at the University of Alberta in 1979, she was the only
woman professor in her department. At that time, the prevalence
of professors who were women in STEM disciplines was less than
30%, with certain disciplines such as engineering, chemistry, and
physics being well below the average.
Guided by the deep-
rooted conviction that engaging girls directly was needed to
bring about change, she was a founding member of Women in
Scholarship, Engineering, Science, and Technology (WISEST) in
1982. WISEST was one of the rst programs in Canada intention-
ally designed to provide an open and supportive learning envi-
ronment that embraced collaboration and valued diversity in
STEM. Over the next 40 years, it grew into an innovative organi-
zation hallmarked by programming designed to break down bar-
riers and empower marginalized and underrepresented students
to pursue careers in STEM.
WISEST programming is targeted towards three main areas:
teaching girls and non-binary students about STEM elds occu-
pied primarily by men, teaching boys about STEM elds tradi-
tionally occupied by women, and teaching First Nations, Inuit,
and Métis students about all STEM elds. Particular attention is
paid to the career interests of students from rural communities
that are shaped by greater exposure to more traditional beliefs
about stereotypical gender roles, greater pressure for social con-
formity to adhere to these traditional beliefs,
a limited array
of STEM jobs present in rural communities, lack of access to
STEM mentors, and lack of access to extracurricular STEM activ-
ities. This rural disparity leads to poor employment opportuni-
ties and lower lifetime earnings of those who stayed in rural
communities compared with those who relocated to urban com-
Indigenous students, in addition to facing systemic
racism, colonialism, and historical trauma, also frequently expe-
rience socioeconomic barriers and remain severely underrepre-
sented in STEM elds.
To reduce socioeconomic barriers to
traveling for STEM programming, rural and Indigenous students
accommodation and travel expenses are often provided by WISEST
during our programs. WISEST programming aims to reach students
who are members of marginalized and underrepresented groups
to increase their knowledge of and interest in STEM careers.
Dr. Armour connected science to everyday life in her chemistry
demonstrations annually at WISESTs conferences from 1990 to
2018 by showing the amount of energy produced by the sugar in a
can of pop, making nylon fabric live in front of the students
eyes, and exploring the density of river ice and its role in winter
survival of marine life. For example, consistent with Dr. Armours
passion for community building and engaging children and youth
through dramatic science demonstrations, WISEST programs bring
together small cohorts of students to create a sense of community
and engage through hands-on and team-based activities where they
solve real-life problems, and both of these learning approaches
better engage collaborative and community-minded students,
especially girls, who tend to be more communally oriented.
In addition, WISESTs programs limit activities and situations
involving competition given longstanding evidence that compe-
tition tends to limit learning, undermine self-efcacy, and dimin-
ish feelings of achievement for girls.
Further, inquiry-based
education focused on skill development and a growth mindset
reinforces that mathematics and science skills can be improved
through concentrated effort rather than these skills being an
innate ability, challenging the unfounded stereotype of girls and
women having innately lower math aptitude.
Growth mind-
set approaches have been shown to reduce the negative effects of
these stereotypes on girls
and African American students.
Effective mentorship is key for the development of STEM pro-
fessionals, and it is crucial that mentors reect the identities of
WISESTs participants.
WISEST works to show students ca-
reer possibilities and further challenge stereotypes about who
scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians are by
introducing students to role models and mentors who encourage
students to develop their skills and envision their future success.
Formal programs with role models and mentors from underre-
presented and marginalized groups are necessary because informal
mentorships (formed organically through similar backgrounds and
interests by the mentor/mentee) are uncommon given underrepre-
sentation in STEM, especially in leadership roles.
Dr. Armour
was an outstanding role model and mentor not just for the many
WISEST program alumni, but also for many of the inspiring STEM
professionals who volunteered their time with the program.
WISEST summer research program
WISESTsagship Summer Research Program is a paid, hands-
on research internship for students entering their nal year of
Goings et al. 647
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high school.
The Summer Research Program features several
unique characteristics. First, students participate in real-life
research before starting university, an experience that is coveted
even among university students. Participants work independ-
ently and as part of a team and, through literature reviews,
hands-on experimentation, and trial and error, contribute to
leading-edge research. Second, unlike many similar STEM intern-
ship programs, participants are paid for their work and they
learn the responsibilities of employment. Third, participants
engage in weekly professional development sessions to learn
about a range of STEM career options, tour STEM organizations,
attend networking events with inspiring mentors, and attend
training sessions for developing presentation, communication,
and leadership skills. Fourth, at the Celebration of Research Day,
students present their research projects to family, friends, teach-
ers, university and government leaders, and program contribu-
tors. The goal of the program is to build a supportive network of
family and role models, as well as condence and professional
presentation skills, all of which are associated with increased in-
terest in STEM disciplines for students from underrepresented
and marginalized groups in these elds.
WISEST science, engineering, and technology conference
The SET (Science, Engineering, and Technology) Conference,
started in 1988, is a one-day conference welcoming over 200 grades
1012 students to the university campus. During the conference,
students learn about career options in STEM, experience hands-on
STEM activities, and talk to university students and professionals
about their experiences in STEM elds. Students are encouraged
to be open minded, be inquisitive, unleash their curiosity, and
embrace discovery. The SET Conference reaches students across
Alberta with 73% residing outside of Edmonton and at least half of
those students coming from rural areas (some travelling up to ve
hours one way to attend). Indigenous students have made up 12% of
attendees at past conferences and spend the afternoon alongside
STEM professionals and mentors who are Indigenous. Indigenous
students are also introduced to First PeoplesHouse, a place offering
support for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit learners to achieve perso-
nal and academic growth at our university.
WISEST choices conference
The Choices Conference (established in 1990) fosters the early
discovery of STEM elds to those in Grade 6. The program aims to
help girls challenge stereotypes about men as scientists,
that science is something they can do, that it is interesting and
fun, and that STEM elds can provide experiences lled with cre-
ativity, wonder, and teamwork. Yearly, more than 600 girls and
their teachers from over 150 elementary schools spend the day
at the University of Alberta, where they participate in hands-on
laboratory activities (e.g., designing and building towers and
bridges, making polymers in a chemistry laboratory, exploring
the properties of fruits and owers, and learning about 3D print-
ing using TinkerCad), meeting various role models, and ending
the day with a group engineering activity. This popular annual
event usually has a waitlist and grade 6 teachers make it a prior-
ity to apply for their class to attend, with many teachers return-
ing yearly because of the impact they observe this event is having
on the lives of their students.
WISEST networks
WISEST has also been instrumental in the development of two
networking and mentorship programs that support the reten-
tion and advancement of university students and early-career
professionals in STEM careers. These networks receive mentor-
ship and guidance, as well as funding support from WISEST, and
have representatives on WISESTs Board of Directors.
First, UA-WiSE (University of Alberta Women in Science and
Engineering) focuses on empowering all underrepresented and
marginalized STEM undergraduate students. The group offers ca-
reer advice, inspirational speakers, and industrygovernment
research mixer events. Membership is open to those who share
the interest of supporting underrepresented and marginalized
groups in STEM. The second is WISER (Women in Science, Engi-
neering and Research), which is designed to connect graduate
students and early-career women and members of underrepre-
sented groups in STEM elds with the information, resources,
support, and professional development opportunities to foster
career development. WISER members are from academia, indus-
try, and government roles at all career stages in STEM. These
networks help students and professionals build community, con-
nections, and relationships within STEM, with the larger goal of
developing their career and promoting their retention in this
WISEST has directly impacted the lives of more than 50 000 students,
teachers, and early-career professionals and many more have been
reached through the trickle effects of its initiatives in the commu-
nity. In addition, up to 10 000 people are inuenced yearly through
outreach activities, including presentations, panels, and booths in
schools, community events, clubs, social media, and online events.
From elementary school through to academia and industry leader-
ship, WISEST supports students from underrepresented and
marginalized groups to explore STEM disciplines and entrench
themselves in a strong and sustainable career path, all thanks
to Dr. Armours advocacy and leadership.
WISEST has closely tracked the outcomes of the agship
Summer Research Program, with more than 1600 participants
since 1984. Post program surveys indicate that program experien-
ces contributed to participantsdecision to study in a STEM disci-
pline, interest in STEM elds, level of self-condence, awareness
of mentorship and networking opportunities, and beginning
their own university journeys. Of the students who participated
in the Summer Research Program between 1984 and 2018, 75%
(over 1200) attended the University of Alberta and 84% of these
attendees majored in STEM disciplines (Figs. 1 and 2). Although
we do not have detailed records of the 25% who did not enroll at
the University of Alberta, through informal follow up with
alumni, WISEST staff noted that many enrolled in STEM pro-
grams at other universities in Canada, the United States, and the
United Kingdom.
In the mid-1990s, Dr. Armour and her collaborators studied
whether participating in WISEST programs was associated with a
greater likelihood of enrolling in STEM degrees among a sample
of high school girls.
They divided 154 applicants to the WISEST
programs randomly into three groups, of which one group would
participate in the Summer Research Program, one in the SET
conference, and one would serve as a control group. Of those par-
ticipants in the Summer Research Program or SET conference,
74%87% enrolled in STEM degree programs (not limited to the
University of Alberta) compared with only 66% of the control
group, though this difference was not statistically signicant.
Furthermore, in follow-up surveys, participants who entered
STEM elds often reported that the Summer Research Program
experience was an important deciding factor for them. Many stu-
dents expressed their gratitude for having the opportunity to
talk with STEM professionals who are women, try hands-on lab
activities, and attend workshops highlighting different STEM
areas. They also stated that this experience made their transition
to university easier and increased their interest in these disci-
plines and in continuing to advanced degrees. Many alumni have
maintained ties with WISEST and their mentors. Additionally,
many pursued graduate studies and are now faculty members at
Canadian institutions and hold leadership roles in industry and
academia. Dr. Martha White, an Assistant Professor in the
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Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta
and Canada CIFAR chair in Articial Intelligence, reected on
her experience in this program on a 2017 WISEST alumni survey:
After my Summer Research experience I realized that I wanted
to pursue a career in mathematics and computing science.
WISEST helped me begin this journey and, through the amazing
network of mentors and role models, also provided me with
invaluable support during the beginning of my career.
As studentsexperience in school inuences their interest in
STEM and thus their motivation to persevere,
WISEST seeks
to inspire and prepare teachers to instill equity and inclusivity in
their classrooms. More than 15000 teachers have participated in
WISESTs programs, accompanying their students, acting as refer-
ences for applicants, and attending professional development semi-
nars. Following one of WISESTs 2019 conferences, a participating
teacher wrote on the anonymous program evaluation:
All four of [my students attending the conference] are from
homes where the parents have never attended university. This
has opened that door for them. One girl wrote in her journal
that this was the best day of my life.
In recognition for their valuable role, each summer WISEST
organizes a Teacher Appreciation Day where teachers are invited
to campus to experience innovative activities in math, science,
and technology. These learning experiences have a transforma-
tive impact on the way they then teach STEM subjects in their
own classrooms, breaking down the reluctance for STEM careers
that is already established in many students from underrepre-
sented and marginalized groups long before they consider pursu-
ing post-secondary education.
Multi-generational impact is the main driver of WISESTs sustain-
able success. Many former participants are now paying it forward
for the next generation of students by volunteering in programs
and mentoring students through WISEST, as well as many organi-
zations with similar missions. Through their leadership roles in
industry, government, and academia, several program alumni have
become role models themselves, now providing mentoring and
professional development opportunities in their organizations. For
many, WISEST provided a nurturing environment that sparked
their curiosity and inspired them to explore and experiment, open-
ing the path to start their career journey.
WISESTs contribution to gender equity in STEM elds has
been publicly and widely recognized across Canada. WISEST was
awarded a Michael Smith Award for Science Promotion in 1994
from NSERC. In 1996, WISEST received an Excellence in Science
and Technology Public Awareness award, Albertasmostprestigi-
ous science and technology honour, from the Alberta Science
and Technology Leadership Foundation. For her work, Dr. Armour
was selected as one of Canadas 23 outstanding women who, in
Charlottetown in 2014 (on the anniversary of our founding
fathers), presented their Bold Vision for Canadas next 150 years.
During that event, she stated:
... the most valuable resource we have is our people. As a
woman and a human being, the most important aspect of my
life has been loving, respectful, and trusting relationships. Those
relationships have not only been with individuals, but within
many and varied supportive communities. It seems that especially
women value and thrive in such communities. The community-
inspired aspect of my dream is that over the next 150 years
there develops in Canada a strong societal recognition of the
fundamental human need to belong to supportive, interacting
communities where we are nurtured and fostered.
Dr Armour received many awards including the Order of
Canada, a Governor Generals Award, and the Alberta Science
and Technology Leadership Awards Foundation Special Award;
Fig. 2. Disciplines of undergraduate program of WISEST Summer
Research Program alumni who enrolled at the University of
Alberta (n= 1189). Alumni were categorized by discipline. STEM
referred to the Sciences (physical, biological, and agricultural
sciences), Technology (computer sciences), Engineering, and
Mathematics programs. This research was reviewed and approved
by the University of Alberta Research Ethics Board (Reference No.
Pro00101675). [Colour online.]
Fig. 1. Proportion of WISEST alumni that attended the University of Alberta and enrolled in STEM disciplines in 19842018 (n=1189).This
research was reviewed and approved by the University of Alberta Research Ethics Board (Reference No. Pro00101675). [Colour online.]
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she was also inducted into the City of Edmonton Hall of Fame
and named one of the 100 Edmontonians of the Century. In 2003,
Macleans Magazine named Dr. Armour one of Ten Canadians
Making a Difference and she was twice named one of the Top
100 Most Powerful Women in Canada by the Womens Executive
Network. In 2016, the 600-student Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour School
opened in Edmonton. Reecting on the honour at the time, Margaret-
Ann said, I want kids to have fun with science. Thats what keeps
them interested.Starting at the schools opening and until her
passing, she was on hand for the rst day of class each September,
doing her best to greet every single student with hugs, handshakes,
and words of encouragement.
Complementary organizations
Outside of her work with WISEST, Dr. Armour was a commu-
nity builder. She co-founded the Canadian Coalition of Women
in Engineering, Science, Trades, and Technology (CCWESTT)
to unite over 20 professional associations, universities and
colleges, and organizations in Canada with similar missions to
a support network and takes an advocacy role to increase
womens representation, inclusion, and equity in STEM. Today,
CCWESTT hosts a bi-annual conference and STEM professionals
who are women travel from across Canada to attend. In
addition, given the slow movement of women into leadership
positions in STEM, CCWESTT established the Canadian Centre
for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology
(WinSETT Centre) with Dr. Armour as the rst President of the
Board. This non-prot organization aims to advance womens
leadership through workshops, projects, and partnerships and
celebrating women as leaders in STEM organizations (https://
Table 1. Data-driven approaches to addressing the challenges and barriers for people from underrepresented and marginalized groups in STEM.
Consideration Interventions or best practices References
Low visibility of people
who are like me
Highlight a diversity of STEM professionals in marketing materials
Invite a diverse group of STEM professionals to share and engage with students in programming
Select mentors to ensure their diversity reects that of the students
Unconscious bias by
parents, family, peers,
and teachers
Have professional development courses for teachers that highlight how to create an inclusive classroom
Educate teachers on bias
Students self-selecting
out of STEM
Provide out-of-school, immersive workshop experiences that relate school learning to real world
examples to motivate students to pursue STEM careers and education
Cultural norms for
gender roles and
childrens learning of
these norms
Educate students, parents, and teachers about the damage done by cultural norms and conditioning
with tangible alternative approaches
Educate students about self-awareness and advocacy in their own personal networks
Promote media campaigns on impact of cultural norms, highlighting resources for parents and students
Lack of specialist STEM
teachers in rural and
small schools
Provide professional development and resources for teachers
Provide virtual resources for rural students
Provide travel and accommodation subsidies to support participation at in person events
Travel to communities to deliver programs
Collaborate with organizations working in rural areas to provide STEM experiences
Higher dropout rates for
students who are
racialized and
Develop programs targeted to the specic needs of the community with input from members of
those groups
Work with established groups such as Black student mentorship programs and First Peoples
House to develop content for and communicate directly with racialized students
Build relationships with teachers and guidance counsellors who work with these populations so
that they know opportunities exist and can encourage students to get involved
Develop an Indigenous Stream within programming that allows students to network with each
other and Indigenous role models, as well as learn about Indigenous-led research on campus.
Access to mentors in
STEM who share similar
social identities
Create programming focused on access to mentors and role models, including groups like WISER
and UA-WiSE
Condence, imposter
Create experiential learning experiences that build up studentscondence
Address concerns over failure, risk aversion, and the challenges imposter syndrome creates
Avoid competitions
Use collaborative approaches to learning
Intimidation of post-
secondary studies
Have experiential learning, hands-on experiences in a post-secondary setting to introduce students
to the campus and environment, as well as engage them in the subjects
Provide access to role models who are similar to students (in terms of background, identity, values,
etc.) who create a safe space to learn, try, and stretch a students own perception of their abilities
Access to reliable and
stable internet,
especially during the
COVID-19 pandemic
Offer alternatives, including pre-recorded portions of events or smaller groups
Allow students to share access with peers on a link and (or) encourage group viewing at public
locations (e.g., school, healthcare facility, library)
Set up a system to loan laptops to students to participate
Provide internet boosters for home use and offset extra internet charges
Intersectional identities
of the participants
Be inclusive of many identities in the mentors, supervisors, and volunteers
Use gender based analysis (GBA+) as a foundational framework for building new programs and
reviewing current ones
Have staff trained in GBA+
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It was through Dr. Armours community building and her col-
laborative nature that she shared her passion, lessons learned,
and advised others starting similar programs. For example, the
Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Newfoundland and
Labrador Summer Student Employment Program (https://wisenl.
ca/ssep) was developed with Dr. Armours guidance, experience,
and lessons from founding WISEST. Complementary organizations
now exist in many provinces and across the country, including
Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST)
(started in 1981) and Lets Talk Science (started in 1993). These
organizations are among many across Canada working towards the
similar goal of increasing representation and inclusion of people
from underrepresented and marginalized groups inSTEM.
What is next for the future?
Programs like WISEST play important roles in teaching girls
about career opportunities in STEM, and following the inception
of these programs in the 1980s, there was a 20% increase in the
percentage of women graduating with STEM bachelors degrees.
However, the representation of women peaked in 2000 and has not
substantially changed as of this writing.
Currently, the percent-
age of women graduating with BSc, MSc, and PhD STEM degrees
has stagnated at 39%, 36%, and 31%, respectively.
Dr. Armour knew that the next major hurdle to increasing
the percentage of women in STEM after recruitment was reten-
Students from underrepresented and marginalized
groups enter university STEM programs with the expectation
that they will be treated equally. However, they encounter an
overwhelming number of negative experiences during their aca-
demic journey.
These negative experiences pervade every
aspect of a students environment, including discriminatory
behaviour from classmates, staff, and faculty,
and serve to
create a collective environment that is hostile towards marginal-
ized and underrepresented students. Over time, the constant
refrain of experiences that suggest youre not good enoughand
you dontbelongherecontributes substantially to pushing stu-
dents from marginalized and underrepresented groups out of
STEM careers.
If we believe that a person fails to ourish because of their envi-
ronment, like Dr. Armour believed, we must move towards dis-
mantling the negative attitudes and stereotypes about people
from underrepresented and marginalized groups in STEM that
persist in preventing our owers from growing. Let us not lose
the human capital, innovation, talent, creativity, and industri-
ousness found within people from diverse groups. If we are to
increase representation, we need to change the system to remove
the added barriers faced by people from marginalized and under-
represented groups. We must take a hard look at professional
and workplace cultures and individually reect on how each
of us contributes to perpetuating systemic discrimination.
WISEST and programs like it created a pipeline for underrepre-
sented and marginalized students into STEM careers, but without
corresponding changes to the culture, we are in danger of con-
tinuing the stagnation of the past few decades into the future.
In addition to addressing our individual and collective contri-
butions to the hostile culture in STEM, we also need to continue
the path that Dr. Armour started by developing scientically pro-
ven methods that are actually effective in changing the culture.
There is an enormous body of scientic literature demonstrating
the manifestations and consequences of systemic discrimina-
but only a few that have researched what interventions
are successful.
As scientists, we use data and facts to inform
our practises and we need to employ similar methodology,
including these communities in method and practice develop-
ment, to increase the participation and lived experiences of peo-
ple from underrepresented and marginalized groups in STEM
(Table 1). We need to move beyond inclusion platitudes and
policies by employing methodologies to measurably take effec-
tive actions that will make STEM organizations places where
everyone has opportunities to pursue long, successful careers
and realize their full potential. With truly inclusive cultures, we
are better equipped to do science as if all people matter.
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... -Rt. Hon. A. Kim Campbell Within this special issue, you will find detailed descriptions of Dr. Armour's work, [10][11][12][13] historical issues and advances in EDI, 14,15 chemistry research by researchers who have been influenced by Dr. Armour's work, 16 and studies on student learning, including students' learning outcomes. [17][18][19] We are grateful to Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour for her contributions to science, leadership, bravery, and the profound impact she has had on us and others in the Canadian and global research community. ...
... See Goings et al. (this issue) for an overview of Margaret-Ann's work with WISEST. 3 As part of Phase I, with primary funding from the Women's Program, Status of Women Canada ("Status of Women Canada" was changed in 2018 to "Women and Gender Equality Canada"), three Regional Consultations were held across Canada in 2003-2004 and were attended by leaders and representatives from industry, government, small-and medium-sized enterprises, universities, colleges, the labour movement, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These stakeholders reviewed issues and effective practices, identified gaps in information, services, and priorities, and identified regional issues. ...
Full-text available
Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour was a foundational builder of equity, diversity, and inclusion in Canada. This article describes her vision and leadership in creating the Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades, and Technology (WinSETT Centre, to generate and sustain national conversations and diversity initiatives. We outline the activities associated with these phases — beginning the diversity initiative, building on success, creating capacity, and launching a national centre — to demonstrate how this change effort has evolved. The comprehensive work since 2003 illustrates the focus, tenacity, and institutional entrepreneurship of Dr. Armour to ‘move the dial’ for diversity and inclusion in Canada. She was a pioneer in social entrepreneurship, creating the organizations, initiatives, and networks to support systemic change.
Full-text available
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence demonstrating that people from marginalized groups, including women, racialized and Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ individuals, continue to face substantial discrimination in STEM, manifested as both overt bias and unconscious bias. These biases result in discrimination against individuals in marginalized groups, and independent biases collectively contribute to a culture that systematically discriminates against people from marginalized groups. Representation from marginalized groups in postsecondary degrees in natural science and engineering has not substantially improved in over a decade. A set of 10 concrete principles are presented that trainees, principle investigators, departments, and faculties can use to enhance the participation and lived experiences of people in marginalized groups in STEM.
Full-text available
There is extensive, yet fragmented, evidence of gender differences in academia suggesting that women are underrepresented in most scientific disciplines and publish fewer articles throughout a career, and their work acquires fewer citations. Here, we offer a comprehensive picture of longitudinal gender differences in performance through a bibliometric analysis of academic publishing careers by reconstructing the complete publication history of over 1.5 million gender-identified authors whose publishing career ended between 1955 and 2010, covering 83 countries and 13 disciplines. We find that, paradoxically, the increase of participation of women in science over the past 60 years was accompanied by an increase of gender differences in both productivity and impact. Most surprisingly, though, we uncover two gender invariants, finding that men and women publish at a comparable annual rate and have equivalent career-wise impact for the same size body of work. Finally, we demonstrate that differences in publishing career lengths and dropout rates explain a large portion of the reported career-wise differences in productivity and impact, although productivity differences still remain. This comprehensive picture of gender inequality in academia can help rephrase the conversation around the sustainability of women’s careers in academia, with important consequences for institutions and policy makers.
Full-text available
Here we evaluate the potential for growth mindset interventions (which teach students that intellectual abilities can be developed) to inspire adolescents to be “learners”—that is, to seek out challenging learning experiences. In a previous analysis, the U.S. National Study of Learning Mindsets (NSLM) showed that a growth mindset could improve the grades of lower-achieving adolescents, and, in an exploratory analysis, increase enrollment in advanced math courses across achievement levels. Yet the importance of being a “learner” in today’s global economy requires clarification and replication of potential challenge-seeking effects, as well as an investigation of the school affordances that make intervention effects on challenge-seeking possible. To this end, the present paper presents new analyses of the U.S. NSLM (N = 14,472) to (a) validate a standardized, behavioral measure of challenge-seeking (the “make-a-math worksheet” task), and (b) show that the growth mindset treatment increased challenge-seeking on this task. Second, a new experiment conducted with nearly all schools in two counties in Norway, the U-say experiment (N = 6,541), replicated the effects of the growth mindset intervention on the behavioral challenge-seeking task and on increased advanced math course-enrollment rates. Treated students took (and subsequently passed) advanced math at a higher rate. Critically, the U-say experiment provided the first direct evidence that a structural factor—school policies governing when and how students opt in to advanced math—can afford students the possibility of profiting from a growth mindset intervention or not. These results highlight the importance of motivational research that goes beyond grades or performance alone and focuses on challenge-seeking. The findings also call attention to the affordances of school contexts that interact with student motivation to promote better achievement and economic trajectories.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This brief paper reports on an ongoing study of fourteen rural elementary teachers' access to technology resources and their use of technology resources for teaching integrated STEM in the classroom. The study is situated in research literature about TPACK, STEM education, and rural education. Classroom observations, surveys, and informal interviews with rural elementary teachers revealed preliminary findings about the nature of these rural teachers' access to technology, how they utilize their resources in their classrooms, and challenges they face with respect to technology and STEM teaching in rural schools. Implications for researchers and teacher educators are discussed.
Full-text available
Some scientists and public figures have hypothesized that women and men differ in their pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) owing to biological differences in mathematics aptitude. However, little evidence supports such claims. Some studies of children and adults show gender differences in mathematics performance but in those studies it is impossible to disentangle intrinsic, biological differences from sociocultural influences. To investigate the early biology of mathematics and gender, we tested for gender differences in the neural processes of mathematics in young children. We measured 3–10-year-old children’s neural development with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during naturalistic viewing of mathematics education videos. We implemented both frequentist and Bayesian analyses that quantify gender similarities and differences in neural processes. Across all analyses girls and boys showed significant gender similarities in neural functioning, indicating that boys and girls engage the same neural system during mathematics development.
Full-text available
The percentage of women employed in professional scientific positions has been low but is increasing over time. The U.S. National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation have both implemented programs to improve women’s participation in science, and many universities and companies have diversity and equity programs. While most faculty and scientists believe that they are fair and unbiased, numerous well-designed studies published in leading peer-reviewed journals show that gender bias in sciences and medicine is widespread and persistent today in both faculty and students. Recent studies show that gender bias affects student grading, professional hiring, mentoring, tenure, promotion, respect, grant proposal success, and pay. In addition, sexual harassment remains a significant barrier. Fortunately, several studies provide evidence that programs that raise conscious awareness of gender bias can improve equity in science, and there are a number of recommendations and strategies for improving the participation of women.
Full-text available
The current study examines how intersecting stereotypes about gender and race influence faculty perceptions of post-doctoral candidates in STEM fields in the United States. Using a fully-crossed, between-subjects experimental design, biology and physics professors (n = 251) from eight large, public, U.S. research universities were asked to read one of eight identical curriculum vitae (CVs) depicting a hypothetical doctoral graduate applying for a post-doctoral position in their field, and rate them for competence, hireability, and likeability. The candidate's name on the CV was used to manipulate race (Asian, Black, Latinx, and White) and gender (female or male), with all other aspects of the CV held constant across conditions. Faculty in physics exhibited a gender bias favoring the male candidates as more competent and more hirable than the otherwise identical female candidates. Further, physics faculty rated Asian and White candidates as more competent and hirable than Black and Latinx candidates, while those in biology rated Asian candidates as more competent and hirable than Black candidates, and as more hireable than Latinx candidates, while those in biology rated Asian candidates as more hirable than Black candidates. An interaction between candidate gender and race emerged for those in physics, whereby Black women and Latinx women and men candidates were rated the lowest in hireability compared to all others. Women were rated more likeable than men candidates across departments. Our results highlight how understanding the underrepresentation of women and racial minorities in STEM requires examining both racial and gender biases as well as how they intersect.
International debate is ongoing regarding the innovation of gender mainstreaming (GM), its efficacy, and future utility. Likewise, in Canada, there is a push to learn from early GM efforts and a renewed focus on creating more responsive mainstreaming strategies. Although Canada’s gender-based analysis (GBA) has been researched and evaluated, this study uses the feminist theory of intersectionality to examine the newer GBA+ model, which builds on its predecessor. Drawing on thematic analysis of 32 stakeholder interviews from three different sectors and content analysis of key policy reports, we investigate how the shift to this new model is perceived, whether inclusion of the “+” results in greater responsiveness, and how to better operationalize intersectionality in policy contexts.