"When I was nine, my teacher asked for a volunteer to quickly set up an experiment from a science kit. I had the science kit at home and knew the experiment well so I raised my hand to volunteer. I knew that I could set it up quickly. My teacher said, 'No, Larissa, I need a boy to do this.' I was crestfallen at my teacher’s response.
Fortunately, I had strong role models at home, with a scientist mother and engineer father. I knew that my teacher was wrong and that her response was an expression of a problem, the same problem that led my female peers to declare that they hated science and to describe a scientist as an old White man with a lab coat and glasses.
I decided that I wanted to do something about it. I was lucky to know many women in science and engineering fields through my parents. I started inviting them into my classroom to talk about what they do. I soon realized that the problem was wider than my classroom; my female friends at other schools shared the same stereotypes of scientists and engineers.
I decided to start a science club for girls - a club where we could meet diverse role models, do fun activities, and go on adventures by visiting labs, workshops, outdoor field sites and more! At my favourite event, we visited a hospital operating room with Dr. Sandy Kirkley, where we performed arthroscopic surgery on (rubber) knees, just like medical residents! That science club for girls, 29 years later, is a national organization (Canadian Association of Girls in Science) with chapters across Canada. We also offer virtual, fun, hands-on sessions led by experts now.
Research shows that children’s exposure to stereotypical images of scientists plays a strong role in shaping their perceptions of scientists. But there’s good news: providing children with diverse role models can reduce negative stereotypes and increase interest in pursuing STEM fields. This is why we are launching today, on International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a campaign on the power of role models called #GirlsNeedRoleModels. Join us!" - Dr. Larissa Vingilis-Jaremko, Scientist