The 100 Years WISE event was both a centennial celebration for UBC, and a night of honouring women in the disciplines of science, medicine, and engineering. Having recently decided to pursue a future in neuropsychology, I’d been looking forward to it for some weeks. As promised, it featured many accomplished female speakers of diverse backgrounds, each giving her insight on working hard and achieving as women in male-dominated fields.
Although the Right Honorable Kim Campbell, first female Prime Minister of Canada, unfortunately could not attend in person, a pre-recorded message communicated her perspective regarding the misogyny that we have all been affected by. She specifically noted how it can interfere with giving women their due support, describing how in the past many simply did not believe that women would be interested in sports, and were thus reluctant to favor equal funding. Apparently science and engineering are the new athletics; they too are considered largely male frontiers with which young women are not encouraged to engage.
“Women don’t always support women,” said Rt. Hon Campbell, “because when you grow up in a society where leadership is gendered, you might exempt yourself from the stereotypes, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you exempt others.”
She went on to say that it’s not uncommon for women to dislike acknowledging discrimination at all, because doing so would invite the pink elephant in the room to tread on the glimmering image of modern equality that society tries to sell as truth. When women dare to say that the emperor is naked and that this modern equality simply doesn’t exist, they make themselves all the more vulnerable to being forcibly reminded that this isn’t their world. They are told that femininity needs to be sacrificed as something inherently shameful or detrimental in a professional setting. How can this be, if equal rights for women truly come without an attachment of terms and conditions?
The full list of panelists is available here
Throughout the session and the words of various speakers (most memorably for me being Dr. Nadine Caron, the first Aboriginal woman to graduate from UBC’s Faculty of Medicine, and AJung Moon, PhD candidate and Vanier Scholar) two intertwined sentiments were recurring: the importance of showing up, and making sure that the first woman to succeed isn’t the last. Each individual achievement does its part to enact social change and make the odds a little less harsh for the women that follow.
I walked out of the 100 Years WISE Centennial Session feeling affirmed and excited for my academic course, as it was such a humbling and inspiring experience to hear the anecdotes and thoughts of such esteemed panelists. Hopefully one day it won’t be a form of activism to simply pursue one’s dreams, but until then it’s up to women to feed their individual potential and support one another in a culture that’s all too ready to undermine their efforts.
A full recording of the 100 Years WISE event can be found here! Whether you’re engaged in a scientific field or not, it’s definitely worth a watch.