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Click for the Becoming Leaders website and ordering information.

With an understanding of how gender can influence workplace dynamics, Becoming Leaders provides practical information to assist women in science, engineering and technology fields to advance their careers and develop their leadership style. It provides the tools to take ownership and to move forward in your studies, career and personal life, as well as in your role as mentor, supervisor or executive (from Preface).

Becoming Leaders is an initiative of the NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (Atlantic Region) at Memorial University, and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Newfoundland and Labrador.  Exciting ideas and a legacy fund from a jointly sponsored national conference, seeded by a donation from Petro-Canada, led to this Handbook. 

For more information on content and ordering, see below. NOTE, for all Canadian orders add only 7%GST.

Becoming Leaders contains sections on:


Ordering Information:

Copies of the book and more information are available from:

"Becoming Leaders", Unit 8, 34 Pine Bud Ave., St. John’s, NL A1B 1M5, Canada

Email:; Tel: (709) 754-7646.

For 1-9 copies ($15 Canadian, or $10 US Funds each) 
For 10 – 99 copies ($12 Canadian, or $8 US Funds each) 
For > 100 copies ($10 Canadian, or $7 US Funds each) 

In Canada, add 7% GST 
(No additional charges for those outside Canada)

Cheque or money order to be made out to "Becoming Leaders", and mailed to address above.

Please include your complete mailing address with your order.

A pdf order form will be posted on a website soon.

Becoming Leaders
at ICWES 12

Becoming Leaders: A Handbook for Women In Science, Engineering and Technology written by F. Mary Williams and Carolyn J. Emerson, and published by CWSE and WISE Newfoundland and Labrador, had its international debut at the 12th International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists in Ottawa, July 27-31, 2002.  A paper on Becoming Leaders and a Career Success Workshop developed from the Handbook, were well received by standing-room only audiences, and sales of the Handbook were brisk at the WISE booth. (see photos below).

Orders from around the world are being filled and reviews are appearing in a number of publications, including the American Assocation for the Advancement of Science's on-line magazine Next Wave.

What Are Readers Saying?

… it provides the tools to take ownership and to move forward in your studies, career and personal life, as well as in your role as mentor, supervisor or executive (VP, international petroleum corporation)

… insightful and an important resource for young career women … For students, it’s an interesting and thought-provoking, as well as instructive, practical guide (review from Next Wave)

… a fantastic well-written resource with great advice. (early career engineer)

I thought I would skim through and just read the portions that I thought were most important to me, BUT 2 hours later, I had read it cover to cover  (senior industry manager)

I couldn't put it down!! It is absolutely amazing, just excellent. (senior scientist)

This is helpful to students, staff, faculty and women all over the world. (science promotion leader).

 … a valuable tool for women in engineering, science and technology careers and those who interface with them. (VP industry)

Becoming Leaders St. John's Launch
July 16th, 2002

Becoming Leaders: A Handbook for Women In Science, Engineering and Technology  was launched provincially at the Admiral's Green Clubhouse on July 16th.  About a hundred individuals joined WISE Newfoundland and Labrador and the NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair, in celebrating the release of Becoming Leaders. Attendees spanned all areas of education, industry, government and professional associations.  Below, Ed Martin of Petro-Canada (left) and Axel Meisen, President of Memorial University (right), received the first copies of the handbook from authors, Mary Williams and Carolyn Emerson.



Eleven delegates from CWSE and WISE were active participants at the 12th International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists in Ottawa, July 27-31, 2002. Over 600 women and men attended from 44 countries. 

CWSE/WISE presented several papers (below), delivered a workshop and panel, and participated in several roundtables and meetings.

Diversity, Thinking Styles and Infographics - F. Mary Williams

The NSERC/Industry Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering: A National Program in Canadian Universities - F. Mary Williams, Maria Klawe, Elizabeth Cannon, Claire Deschenes, Monique Frize, and Barbara Muir

Advancing Career Success: Professional Development Initiatives that Work for Women in Science and Engineering - Carolyn J. Emerson, F. Mary Williams, and Jane Kieley

Marketing WISE Newfoundland and Labrador -  Lisa Anthony and Joanna Barnard

Extending the Vision and Impact: Canadian and U.S. STEM Outreach Experiences - Gloria Montano, Carolyn J. Emerson, Faye Murrin, Nancy Nelson, and Pat Simonson

Becoming Leaders Workshop - Career Success: Skills and Strategies - Carolyn J. Emerson and F. Mary Williams.  Delivered by F. Mary Williams, Joanna Barnard, Jane Kieley and Karen Muggeridge

Lisa Anthony and Joanna Barnard get ready for their paper.

Jane Kieley reviews her notes too.

Break-out group hard at work in the International STEM session.

Mary Williams facilitates in the Becoming Leaders Workshops.

Carolyn Emerson and Lisa Anthony staff the WISE booth, and 

Mary makes a sale.

It was not all hard work --

Pamela Harris, Joanna Barnard and Caroline Koenig
take a well-deserved break.

Nan Armour and Sherry Niven from Halifax
share a relaxed moment with St. John's DFO colleague Ben Davis.

Angela Tate has new international colleagues.

Jan Kieley and Faye Murrin enjoy a reception, as do 

Karen Muggeridge, Mary and Teresa Brychcy from NSERC.

and panel collaborators from the Society of Women Engineers,
Gloria Montano and Nancy Nelson,
in their happy rendition of the US National Anthem.


WISE Delegates to ICWES 12
gratefully acknowledge the support of:

NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair for
Women in Science and Engineering

WISE Newfoundland and Labrador

NSERC’s PromoScience

Industry Canada

Canadian Coalition of Women
in Engineering, Science and Technology

Graduate Students Union
Memorial University

And individual delegate support from:


Technip CSO Canada Ltd.


Acres International

A New Site for Youth and Science

YEC Online, a fully interactive youth-centred science website for Eastern Canadians aged 13-18 was just launched in Sept. 2002. YEC Online presents topics of interest about science to youth on their own terms. YEC Online is a component of the Atlantic Provinces Council on the Science’s (APICS) Youth Education and Communication Program (YEC). Young Canadians will find out about science secrets, science in the world around them, science careers, fun resources and events in their communities.  Check out this attractive site at

Ursula Franklin Champions 
Lawsuit for Equity

Celebrated engineering Professor Emerita, Ursula Franklin, was one of several individuals who led a successful legal challenge against the University of Toronto to redress gender inequity.  Below are excerpts from a recent press release, the entirety of which can be viewed by clicking here.

“The University of Toronto, Ursula Franklin, Phyllis Grosskurth, Blanche Lemco van Ginkel and Cicely Watson have agreed to settle a lawsuit brought last year on behalf of a group of retired U of T female faculty and librarians. The retirees alleged that the university had been unjustly enriched by paying them less than men performing the same work.

U of T Vice-Provost Vivek Goel said the university recognized that in the past many of its female faculty have faced obstacles and barriers in their careers because of their gender.  "Despite our efforts to promote and advance gender-equity principles," Goel said, "the results of the two past salary review processes indicate that the university had failed to achieve fairness in ensuring that all faculty members of similar accomplishment and seniority within the same discipline received similar compensation
regardless of their gender."

Ursula Franklin, University Professor Emerita, said "The settlement is welcome.  A mediated settlement will benefit more people than would have been possible through the court case," she said.  "It also ensures that the retired women will immediately benefit, which is especially important as many of them are in their eighties and nineties."”

Career Success Workshop: 
Getting the Job
March 23, 2002

Graduating or advanced technology students are optimistically looking for successful careers in technology, science, or engineering. Beyond the basic information on resumé writing and interviews, what is additionally useful in convincing a prospective employer to hire a talented woman in these fields? 

A recent workshop addressed these issues for an audience of senior women students from STEM programs at the College of the North Atlantic and Memorial University.


Facilitators Caroline Koenig, Joanna Barnard (left), Jane Kieley, Mary Williams and Carolyn Emerson gave valuable tips on making resumes convincing, preparing for an interview, handling challenging questions, and enhancing career success.  The interactive format provided lots of opportunities for practice of techniques and discussion with professionals who have experienced both sides of the hiring process.

Getting the Job is one of a series of workshops developed and delivered by the NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Newfoundland and Labrador, and is supported by Petro-Canada.

TECHSPLORATION Launched January, 2002

“Science and Technology are important subjects in our world today but there are not many women scientists. This is a reason why I would like to be on the school team, to have at least one more woman working on a construction site, in a science lab or under the sea. Being a member of my school team will be great, but making a difference for women even greater.” Techsploration participant

Techsploration is an innovative program of career research and exploration designed to encourage girls at the grade nine level to consider careers which require math and science. It is currently being delivered by Women in Resource Development Committee (WRDC) as a pilot project to girls in eight schools of the Avalon East School Board with the financial support from ExxonMobil and the generosity of participating companies.

The program incorporates hands-on learning, research and presentation activities and role model relationships over a period of several months. Each participant is a member of a school team which has been paired with a woman working in a trades, technology, engineering or scientific career. During the program, the girls will research this career, spend time at the workplace with the role model and prepare a presentation of the information to be shared with all other teams at the Techsplorers Event. 

The response to all program activities has been very positive. Especially exciting for the teams were some of the tours which took them into manufacturing shops, survival tanks, underground construction sites, helicopter hangers, training fires, state of the art mechanical rooms and labs. Their feedback has told us that this approach to career exploration is working.

“This program will hopefully widen women’s opportunities and options on what we can do with the rest of our lives. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a program that does all that and at the same time work with many women and teens to continue to open doors to the real meaning of GIRL POWER!!!”Techsploration Participant 

For more information, see, or contact Jan Foley at WRDC for more details -, 738-8998, 738-3713.

Students Celebrate 
the Marconi Centenary

On Dec. 12th, 2001, junior high school students from the Avalon region joined in celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Marconi’s reception of the first transatlantic wireless signal on Signal Hill, Newfoundland.  Students participated in an IEEE sponsored contest testing the signal strength of crystal radios they had assembled from kits and everyday household items. The kits had been developed by the Instrumentation, Control and Automation Centre at Memorial University with the assistance of two WISE Summer Students, Corinna Freake from Labrador City and Melissa Williams from St. Mary’s Bay.

Student contest participant demonstrates his radio to WISE students 
Corinna Freake and Melissa Williams.

The students were part of day-long events that included the re-enactment of the signal reception from Poldu, England, Provincial ceremonies featuring the Governor General, radio links with people around the globe via amateur radio from Signal Hill, hands-on communications technology activities, and live conversations with an astronaut on the orbiting Space Station.

Working for Success Workshop
May 12, Oct. 11, 12, 2001

So you’ve survived the labs and the exams, and landed a great job in the engineering or scientific field of your what?

Maximizing your professional potential and advancing on the job were foremost on the agenda at the recent Working for Success workshop, co-hosted by WISE Newfoundland and Labrador and the NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering. The daylong event, held May 12 in the Centre for Management Development, emphasized planning, assertiveness, and negotiating as crucial strategies to ‘working smarter’. 

Thirty-six students and professional women participated in the workshop, which used small group seminars, individual exercises and sharing of personal expertise to get the message across. A session on Skills and Strategies for Achieving Recognition, facilitated by Ali Sutherland, addressed the unique challenges for women in gaining recognition for contributions and achievements. The Negotiating for Success session delivered by Jane Helleur focussed on everyday ‘win-win’ negotiations, and gave the audience practical steps and tools for workplace usage.

During a networking lunch and case study, workshop attendees had the opportunity to apply their learning and connect with possible mentors and protégées. Rounding out the event was a panel presentation from women established in successful careers: Darlene Whalen, Vice-Chair of the Public Utilities Board, Jane Kieley, Manager of Broadband Systems in Aliant Telecom, and Alice Collins, Education Professor and Associate Director of Labour Relations, Memorial University, reflected on their own career paths and shared personal lessons. There was strong resonance with the panelists’ insight, motivation, and practical advice.

CWSE assistant Carolyn Emerson characterized the event as a great success. “There’s a tremendous demand from women in science, engineering, and technology careers for this kind of information,” she said. “Particularly in terms of the balance between home and work lives, women want to know how to use their time most effectively and productively to further their careers and move up the ladder in a way that satisfies them.”

“Few university courses teach workplace strategy,” added Dr. Mary Williams, the CWSE chairholder. “But how we interact on the job is every bit as important as the skills we contribute, so we’re trying to help by teaching women who want to know what practical steps they can take to make their professional lives more fulfilling and rewarding.”

Career Skills and Strategies Workshops were also delivered to 30 participants in Halifax in October, 2001, to ANSWERS and the Bedford Institute of Oceanogaphy.

The results of the workshop will be elaborated upon in a handbook being developed by CWSE and WISE for debut at the 12th International Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists next year in Ottawa.

PromoScience Awards Announced

WISE Newfoundland and Labrador and the Newfoundland Science Centre were among 66 organizations across Canada that received funding from a new NSERC program to support initiatives in opening doors to opportunities in the sciences and engineering for young Canadians.  The PromoScience awards were announced on January 18th by Industry Minister Brian Tobin and Mr. Tim Nau of NSERC, in a ceremony at the Newfoundland Science Centre.  Both organizations gave brief presentations on their work and then joined the Minister and an elementary school class in some hands-on science fun.

WISE Women Winners at MUN

Sarika Wadhawan and Rhonda Chaytor are the first winners of the Nortel Networks/Women in Science and Engineering Scholarships, valued at $5000 each over two years.  Chaytor, a third year Computer Science student from Spaniard's Bay and Wadhawan, a Term 6 Electrical Engineering student from St. John's, were selected recently from an impressive group of applicants for the awards, designed to reward scholastic excellence and encourage young women in these fields by providing financial support.

Jane Kieley (WISE President), Rhonda Chaytor (Computer Science winner), 
Sarika Wadhawan (Engineering winner), and Rolly Card (Nortel Networks)

Wadhawan, who has contributed to a variety of community activities on her work terms, including Habitat for Humanity and the Hurricane Floyd Relief efforts (in North Carolina), as well as the Society of Women Engineers and the Young Multicultural Women's Organization, spoke enthusiastically about her award:  “I am very happy to receive this award and proud to represent Women in Science and Engineering. I hope to be able to act as a positive role model to other females with pursuits in these fields, and I would like to thank WISE and Nortel for this opportunity.”

 Chaytor, an active participant in science promotion to high school
students, a university math tutor, and a contributor to Health and Community Services, the Canadian Paraplegic Association, and Memorial University residence and church activities, also expressed the importance of this award to her continued scholastic success. “It reassures me that I am capable – capable of completing my degree and of working in a field I only dreamed of in high school – capable of something that once intimidated me.”

Memorial President Axel Meisen expressed gratitude for Nortel Networks’ conscientiousness in directing this award to female students. “It is very rewarding to see young women being supported in their endeavours by the corporate community, and clearly, this demonstrates that workplace diversity is a worthwhile goal. I applaud both Nortel and WISE for their generosity in sponsoring this initiative, and congratulate Ms. Wadhawan and Ms. Chaytor for their wonderful success in being the first recipients of the awards.”

In presenting the cheques to the recipients, Jane Kieley, President of WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) Newfoundland and Labrador, said, “This is a great start, and a success upon which we plan to build. I am very proud to be part of WISE, which supports and celebrates female success, and proud, too, to be an alumna of a university that recognizes student achievement.”

Rolly Card, Sales Account Manager – Atlantic Canada, Nortel, expressed his company’s feeling towards the donation. “Nortel hires a lot of MUN graduates, particularly from Engineering and Computer Science, so we’re delighted to be able to put something back into the university, and to be able to do so through an organization like WISE. It’s a situation that is to the advantage of everyone involved.”

Nortel Networks made the announcement one month ago that it would donate the two new scholarships to encourage young women in computer science and engineering fields.  Applicants had to be female full-time students at Memorial in either third year Computer Science or Term 6 Electrical or Computer Engineering with a background of academic excellence, leadership qualities, involvement in student affairs and community activities, and an interest in science and engineering promotion.

New donation from Nortel Networks 
for WISE women at MUN

 Nortel Networks announced today that it is donating two new scholarships totaling $10,000 to support female undergraduate engineering and computer science students at Memorial University. The Nortel Networks/Women in Science and Engineering Scholarships are designed to encourage young women in computer science and engineering fields by providing support in the amount of CAN$5000 over two years. 

Applicants must be female full-time students at Memorial in either third year Computer Science or Term 6 Electrical or Computer Engineering with a background of academic excellence, leadership qualities, involvement in student affairs and community activities, and an interest in science and engineering promotion.

In accepting the cheque on behalf of the university, Memorial President Axel Meisen expressed gratitude for Nortel Networks’ conscientiousness in targeting the award to female students. “The attraction and retention of young women to the fields of engineering and computer science is an important step not only in the securing of equality of economic opportunity for these students, but also for the professions themselves, which benefit immeasurably from diversity.  We are grateful to Nortel Networks for recognizing this, and applaud their generosity.”

Looking on as Memorial University President Axel Meisen signs off on the agreement: (l-r) Bill Roberts, Account Vice President, Aliant, Nortel Networks; Dr. Mary Williams, NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering; Jane Kieley, President, WISE Newfoundland and Labrador; and Rolly Card, Newfoundland Account Manager, Nortel Networks.

“We are deeply committed to working with organizations such as WISE in developing future leaders for the technology-driven workforce,” said Bill Roberts, Account Vice President, Aliant, Nortel Networks.  “Our financial support – combined with our global Internet and communications leadership and our extensive capabilities in Wireless, Optical, Local Internet and eBusiness – will assist in increasing the flow of engineering and computer science graduates.” 

“For future Internet leaders who will develop economies and improve life in the community, education is crucially important,” Roberts added. “By focusing on students, we believe we can make the most valuable contribution in the communities where we live and work.  We hope this joint initiative will enhance the learning environment of female students studying in these programs.”

Jane Kieley, President of WISE (Women in Science and Engineering)
Newfoundland and Labrador, drew from her own experience in acknowledging the significance of the scholarships. “We’re delighted to have this support from Nortel endorsing the objectives of WISE by encouraging young women in the critical early stages of their careers in engineering and computer science. As an electrical engineer myself, and a graduate of MUN, I am quite proud to be part of this, and within WISE we look forward to involving the scholarship recipients in our ongoing activities to promote science and engineering to young women within the province.”

For more information or scholarship applications, please contact Jane
Kieley, President, WISE Newfoundland and Labrador at (709) 739-3915 or

Women in Engineering Memorial Scholarship

Susan Pike, a first year Engineering Student from Carbonear, was awarded the Women in Engineering Memorial Scholarship in November 2000.  This $2000 scholarship was established to commemorate the sudden and tragic deaths of fourteen women at L'Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal on December 6, 1989.

Jane Kieley, President of WISE Newfoundland and Labrador; Scholarship Winner, Susan Pike; Carolyn Emerson, Faculty of Engineering, Memorial University

Honours for WISE Women

Two founding members of the volunteer organization, Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Newfoundland and Labrador, were recently honoured for their professional achievements and community contributions, including their support of women's involvement in science and engineering careers.

On Oct. 28th, 2000, Darlene Whalen received the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland Award for Service for her extensive contributions to APEGN and to the profession of engineering.  Darlene is currently the Vice Chair of the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities.  The full citation for her award is on the APEGN website.

(Photo from APEGN)

And on Oct. 31st, the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization for Women Entrepreneurs recognized Mona El-Tahan as the Entrepreneur of the Year for the Avalon Region.  Mona is President and CEO of Coretec, Inc., a company that specializes in offshore and environmental engineering.

Congratulations to both Darlene and Mona!

Shell Funds Marianne-Mareschal Engineering Chair 
at Ecole Polytechnique

MONTREAL, April 10 /CNW/ - Shell Canada Limited has contributed $300,000 to University of Montreal Ecole Polytechnique to become the sole corporate sponsor of the Marianne-Mareschal Chair which will promote engineering as a career for women.

Today few women choose engineering as a career. Women represent only 19 per cent of students registered in undergraduate engineering programs in Canada. In Quebec, only nine per cent of practicing engineers are women. Although some progress in encouraging women to pursue careers in engineering has been made over the past ten years, initiatives such as the Marianne- Mareschal Chair are necessary to ensure that entry rates continue to increase.

The Marianne-Mareschal Chair's community outreach and academic
activities include conferences, science summer camps, internships, mentoring programs and awards. The Chair is comprised of high-profile women scientists from Ecole Polytechnique and the greater business and academic community.

Responsible for training one third of Quebec engineers, Ecole
Polytechnique in Montreal with its 5,000 students is in fact the largest
engineering school in Canada.

"Shell is proud to be the sole corporate sponsor of the Marianne-
Mareschal Chair at Ecole Polytechnique. Encouraging women to pursue careers in engineering helps to ensure that Shell has a diverse and highly skilled workforce so we can continue to meet Canada's evolving energy needs for years to come," said Paul Lapensée, Shell's Vice President of Quebec Markets. The company is proud to mention that, in Quebec, 23% of its engineers are women.

Last year, Shell donated $5.4 million to non-profit organizations across the country, of which $1.9 million to support post-secondary institutionsand programs.

Dr. Michael Smith Passes Away

Canadian Nobel Prize Laureate, Dr. Michael Smith, 68, died in Vancouver, Oct. 4th 2000 of leukemia.  Dr. Smith won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1993 for his work on changing the structure of DNA.  He donated half of his prize to schizophrenia agencies and the other half as an endowment fund to support the work of the Society for Canadian Women in Science and science programming for elementary school teachers.

WISE Newfoundland and Labrador was honored to be named an inaugural winner of the Michael Smith Award for Science Promotion in 1994.   Several WISE members have had the opportunity of meeting Dr. Smith, both at the award ceremony in Ottawa and during a visit to St. John's in September 1994.  During that visit he gave several presentations in schools talking of his work, the Nobel Prize, the excitement of science, and the importance of supporting women in science and technology careers.  He was a warm and generous man who inspired others in Canada to find their place and contributions in science.

Women in Canada 2000

Statistics Canada on Sept. 14th released a new study on the status of women in Canada.  Among the findings -

   Canadian women have made tremendous strides in their educational attainment in the past several decades. In 1996, 12% of all women aged 15 and over had a university degree - double the figure in 1981 (6%) and four times that in 1971 (3%). Women, however, are still somewhat less likely than men to have a university degree.

   The overall difference in the proportions of women and men with a university degree is likely to narrow further in the future, since women currently make up the majority of full-time students in universities. However, women's share of full-time university enrolment declines at higher levels of study. While they make up the majority of full-time students in most university departments, women continue to account for a minority of full-time enrolment in mathematics and science faculties.

   In 1999, 55% of all women aged 15 and over had jobs, up from 42% in 1976. As a result, women accounted for 46% of the work force in 1999, up from 37% in 1976. A substantial proportion of employed women work part-time. In 1999, 28% of all employed women worked less than 30 hours per week, compared with just 10% of employed men.

   The employment rate of women with children has grown particularly sharply in the past two decades, especially for those with preschool-aged children. By 1999, 61% of women with children less than age 3 were employed, more than double the figure in 1976.

   The majority of employed women continue to work in occupations in which women have traditionally been concentrated. In 1999, 70% of all employed women were working in teaching, nursing and related health occupations, clerical or other administrative positions, and sales and service occupations. The proportion of women employed in traditionally female-dominated occupations, however, has slowly declined since 1987, when 74% were in such jobs.

   Women have increased their representation in several professional fields in recent years. In 1999, women made up 49% of business and financial professionals, up from 41% in 1987. Women also made up 47% of all doctors and dentists in 1999, up from 44% in 1987. Women have also increased their share of total employment in managerial positions from 29% in 1987 to 35% in 1999. In contrast, only 20% of professionals employed in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics in 1999 were women, a figure that has changed little since 1987 (17%).

For more information or to order the report, check out

Claudette MacKay-Lassonde

Claudette MacKay-Lassonde, founder of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) National, died in Toronto in mid June, 2000.  A tribute to Claudette was given a the recent New Frontiers, New Traditions Conference in St. John's, July 6th.  Ms. MacKay-Lassonde was also an active member of the Board of the Canadian Engineering Memorial Foundation and donations in her memory can be made to the CEMF.

NSERC University Faculty Awards

Below is a letter from the five NSERC Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering to respond to the negative letter writing campaign triggered by Doreen Kimura on the NSERC's University Faculty Awards. This campaign has been reported in the popular press in early 2000. If you would like to indicate your support for the program, you can send a message to Tim Nau at NSERC's Communications at

In a recent broadly distributed letter, the president of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS), Dr. Doreen Kimura, criticizes the UFA (University Faculty Awards) program by NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council) for selectively supporting new women faculty. Kimura claims that the low representation of women in physical sciences and engineering is natural, and opposes NSERC's efforts to change that situation. The claims are based on a narrow and outdated concept of science and engineering, a concept which fails to accommodate the complexity of modern science, and which severely limits its potential benefits to society. 

Modern literature on the question of relative abilities in mathematics and science is extensive and conflicting. For example, depending on the instrument used, isolated studies have shown that boys perform better or that girls perform better in mathematics. However, a recent meeting of respected researchers identified consistent themes (Jackson). The majority of recent results show that the mathematics abilities of girls and boys are very similar, and that there are larger differences in performance within each sex than between the two sexes. Skills are learned rather than innate. Females need more direct personal encouragement than males due to factors such as social expectations and peer influences. The issues are complex, but it is clear that in order to improve gender balance in careers requiring mathematics and science skills, we must encourage confidence and show relevance.

Equally important is the question of merit. A study of the career patterns and success of the National Science Foundation's prestigious post doctoral fellowships concluded, amongst several other points, that although men published slightly more papers than women (2.8 versus 2.3 publications per year), women's articles were cited more frequently than men's (24.4 versus 14.4 citations per article) (Sonnert and Holton 1996). "This Greater citation impact might indicate that the content of the women's articles, on the whole, was more noteworthy." A large study sample of biochemists, also found a similar gender difference in citations per article in the same direction (Long 1992). On the other hand, a study of postdoctoral fellowship applicants found that women had to publish approximately twice as much as men to achieve the same success rate (Wenneras and Wold 1997). These results support current efforts both at NSERC and in the universities to use "quality" of publications as a criterion of productivity instead of a pure count of numbers of these when important decisions about scientists' careers are made.

SAFS espouses the merit principle, but accepts traditional norms. Kimura's argument for the status quo is consistent with SAFS goals of preserving academic tradition but in direct opposition to NSERC's efforts to continually enhance the quality of science and engineering research in Canadian universities. In the book "Lifting a Ton of Feathers", Paula Caplan describes the "the myths of meritocracy", showing how criteria of excellence developed in the past do not reflect the reality of the contributions from today's more diverse science and engineering community (Caplan 1992).

The general principle, that diversity is a stronger basis for the advance of scientific knowledge than homogeneity, is supported by strong academic, as well as social, arguments. To keep pace with the complexity of modern science and rapid discipline transfer of concepts, academic research groups must incorporate as wide as possible a range of problem solving and thinking styles. In order to teach effectively to potential scientists as well as to non-specialists, academic departments must welcome a range of communication styles and evaluation approaches. Many industries, having recognized the benefits of diversity, are recruiting to improve the range and balance in their technical teams. We have a responsibility, in the decade to come, to respond to these needs in the Canadian university system.

Recent programs involving role models, and activities that build self-confidence and show societal relevance, have resulted in substantial increases in the participation of women in science and engineering studies. National statistics show that enrolments of women in undergraduate and Master's engineering programs have doubled in the last decade, and tripled in the PhD programs. The number of women studying engineering at the undergraduate level has increased from under 10% a decade ago to approximately 21% all across Canada, with higher levels, such as the impressive 43% at the University of Guelph, in institutions which have made special efforts. Similarly, women now make up approximately half the undergraduate enrollments in science. These gains show that intervention programs have been successful in eradicating some of the barriers (Frize, Long et al. 1998). Realistically though, the job is far from being done: Women still represent only 13% of PhD enrolments in engineering, and less than 20% of enrollments in Computer Science and Physics.

To increase the opportunities of academic careers for outstanding women scientists and engineers, NSERC has taken leadership and developed the UFA program. Women nominated by Canadian universities for this competition first pass their research grant applications through a rigorous peer-review process in a national competition. The strongest candidates are then selected from this group. This rigorous process assures the quality of the women academics selected. The UFA program builds on the highly successful Women's Faculty Award (WFA) program (NSERC 1997). For a mere 0.16% of NSERC's budget, the UFA program has a powerful positive effect on Canadian universities and the next generation of Canadian scientists and engineers.


Signed by the five NSERC-Industrial Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering
Elizabeth Cannon, PhD, P.Eng.(Prairies)
Claire Deschenes, PhD, P.Eng.(Quebec)
Monique Frize, PhD, P.Eng., OC (Ontario)
Maria Klawe, PhD (BC & Yukon)
Mary Williams, PhD (Atlantic & North)

The five NSERC-Industrial Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering, have a dual mandate: to develop and implement effective strategies to increase the participation of  women in fields of science and engineering where they are under-represented; and to continue their research and scholarly activities in their respective science and engineering fields (Frize, Deschênes et al. 1999).


Caplan, P. (1992). Lifting a Ton of Feathers: A Woman's Guide to Surviving in the Academic World. Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

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Havin' a Time in '99: 
Listen, Learn and Laugh

Provincial Guiders' Conference 
Oct. 15-17, 1999, Gander

The NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, the Newfoundland Science Centre and WISE Newfoundland and Labrador, partnered with the Girl Guides of Canada in participating in this provincial conference attended by 360 Guide leaders.  The GGC, a movement for girls, led by women, represents a key audience for the CWSE as Guiders interact with 10,000 girls throughout the province, and over 100,000 nationally.  Empowerment and the development of self-confidence and leadership skills in girls and young women, are shared objectives.

         Elaine Paterson, Chief Commissioner & Mary Williams

Great hospitality and prominence on the program highlighted our presence at the conference, and we had many opportunities to interact with the participants.  Those formal and informal interactions carried the messages of the importance of science in our everyday lives, the broad spectrum of career choices available to young women, and the leadership of women.  There were also lots of fun, hands-on activities to provide resources to assist Guiders in delivering the science component of their program to their Sparks, Brownies and more senior girls.

        WISE exhibit was a busy place

Plenary addresses, poster give-aways and playing with 'guk' contributed to our collectively havin' a time, with lots of listening, learning and laughing throughout the weekend.  Thank you to the Girl Guides of Canada! 

Anna Kiefte of the Science Centre with hands-on science fun

The Newfoundland Science Centre now offers "Simply Science for the Girl Guides of Canada".  Enjoy hands-on science fun, activities (including overnighters!), badge and volunteer opportunities for everyone from Sparks to the Senior Branches.  Call 754-0823 for more information.  Also check out the Girl Guides Girl's fun activities site