It's not that all the women are suddenly opting for traditional careers. It's that their numbers in engineering, science and technology endeavours are shrinking. This is an alarming trend to someone like Helen Francis, a front-line supervisor underground at Inco's Creighton mine in Sudbury.
Francis looks to be a rising star. She is a graduate of the University of Cardiff and studying for her masters degree from McGill University in Montreal while working for Inco. Her experience includes mine research and project management. Thanks to executive mentorship, she also has a grip on the business end of the industry.
She's not the first woman to work underground in Canada, but Francis doesn't plan to be the last. She is an active supporter of the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (www.ccwest.org).
CCWEST is a national alliance of women's groups that "promotes women in science, technology, engineering and math, celebrates their contributions and applies new vision to these fields." The goal is to get more women to enter these disciplines by building a positive perception of science and technology and by providing role models and encouragement.
The 10th CCWEST conference is scheduled for June 10-13, 2004, at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont. The program centres around three topics: professional development; work, life, balance; and ensuring future opportunities. Participation is sought from women scientists, engineers, mathematicians and technologists, students, educators, and representatives from science organizations, industry, government and professional organizations. Details are posted at www.brocku.ca/fms/ccwest2004.
We at CMJ recognize that a good mind may be packaged in either sex, any race or nationality. Any person with an inclination to explore science, math, engineering or technology must be encouraged. To discourage a woman because these endeavours are non-traditional is senseless. What if the next Einstein is named "Alberta" rather than "Albert"? It really doesn't matter. What matters is that an individual can advance science only if that person knows that the sciences are a challenging career path. So let's support CCWEST. And let's support other groups that encourage and help anyone wanting a specialized education.