The critical need for better diversity in STEM: Holland Bloorview’s spotlight on the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science
The critical need for better diversity in STEM: Holland Bloorview’s spotlight on the United Nations International Day of Women and Girls in Science

February 11 marks the 3rd annual United Nations (UN) International Day of Women and Girls in Science. In acknowledgment of the day, join us as we share messages from some of Holland Bloorview’s exceptional women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and commit to fostering a culture that supports the continued significant contributions of women and girls in economic, scientific and medical advancement worldwide.

Whether it’s medicine or health, research or care; for those starting their careers and those who are further along; let these messages be a call-to-arms – for a field as diverse as the people it must serve, and recognition of the value that inclusion brings. Our common goal is clear – to drive forward systemic change that will make STEM a place where everyone can have their impact.

Evdokia Anagnostou
Senior clinician scientist; co-lead of Holland Bloorview’s autism research centre

“What I would like for women and girls who are thinking about STEM to know, is that you are more than a gender and more than a stereotype. Go out there and be a trailblazer!”

Lori Beesley
Family-centred care specialist

”By inspiring and encouraging families and young children to get involved in science and research, I hope to open up new possibilities and interest in STEM. They see first-hand how their participation expands their own horizons, while stimulating new ideas for those in the field.”

Elaine Biddiss
Scientist, engineering

“Choosing to study or pursue a career in science is mind-opening. What is truly exciting is how STEM is converging with every other discipline: education, medicine, arts, music, fashion… the opportunities are endless.”

Jessica Brian
Clinical investigator; psychologist; co-lead of Holland Bloorview’s autism research centre

“Be bold – follow your dreams, share your ideas, let your voice be heard, and never apologize for doing what you love!”

Lorry Chen
Clinical dietitian

“As a dietitian, I have the knowledge to help people translate scientific information about food which we eat every day, and engage and provide relevant nutrition education to help guide them to make a positive change in their lifestyle decisions. To me, what makes someone successful in this field, is being inquisitive and never stopping asking ‘why.’ Channel your passion and be motivated by your thirst for the unknown or undiscovered. Always believe in yourself. Infinite possibilities can be achieved with passion and hard work.”

C.J. Curran
Health administrator

“It is imperative that we continue to bridge the divide between girls, women and STEM. We are proud here at Holland Bloorview to have partnered with FIRST Robotics in offering robotics programs to our clients. Although we have been successful in attracting girls to our robotics programs, we remain committed to raising the bar and do more to attract more girls to participate. Collectively we can make a difference and grow awareness for STEM as a viable path for girls and women, and shift attitudes.”

Krissy Doyle-Thomas
Neuroscientist and research associate

“Within the context of my research, STEM is an opportunity to apply science solutions to everyday health challenges to improve the quality of life for kids with disabilities. In my opinion, for someone to be successful in STEM they need to be willing to keep learning, asking questions and challenging typical approaches to treatment. Collaboration is important! Different perspectives and disciplines working together will bring new insight and effective solutions that work for everyone.”

Susan Fisher
Preventative maintenance technologist/Occupational therapy assistant

“Every day, women are advancing throughout the world in science, medicine and economic developments. The future is open for any woman or girl who wants to challenge herself and reach new heights beyond what men and women are achieving today. Make a choice and go for it!”

Amanda Fleury
PhD; biomedical engineering

“Don’t ever stop being curious and asking the hard questions. The world needs passionate and curious people to solve difficult problems. Within ‘STEM’, there are so many different paths and opportunities to have an impact in a way that’s authentic and meaningful for you.”

Erica Floreani
MASc student

“My message for women and girls pursuing STEM is – don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do. You are the only person that has the power to decide what you are capable of. With enough passion and dedication, you can do anything and don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.”

Caron Gan
Advanced practice nurse/Family therapist – brain injury rehabilitation team; clinical team investigator

“Women in STEM have unique ways of thinking about problems and harnessing creativity in their pursuit of knowledge and understanding. The "art" of science is often overlooked and I invite women and girls to think outside the box and to view science beyond its traditional form. As an advanced practice nurse/family therapist, I went outside of my comfort zone to embrace scientific enquiry and research, to find answers to important clinical questions. I've been very privileged to have a scientific mentor and role model who helped me channel my curiosity. By discovering what I don’t know, I have opened the door to new possibilities to make a bigger difference in the world through my caregiver research.”

Lindsay Green-Noble
Research ethics coordinator

“In her moments of doubt, we must be the ones to echo within her mind that she can and she must. She must see the paths blazed by those who have come before her and encouraged to grab the hands of those behind her. She must hear the voices of women in the news being held to the highest of esteem so that she knows that she can too. She must know that we all stand with her, holding her on our shoulders, collectively rising higher and greater. It is our collective responsibility that our voices joined together reach every girl with a dream, a purpose, and a burning desire to find an answer. That the tenacious women who must fight against the opinions of others have the courage to do what they know in their hearts they must.”

Megan Hamilton
Master’s research student; biomedical engineering

“Allow your passion and curiosity to drive everything that you do. Don't be afraid of challenges - they will allow you to learn more about your interests and yourself than you ever could have predicted. I joined this field because it is our role as engineers and designers to provide everyone with the opportunity to lead an independent life.”

Julia Hanigsberg
President and CEO

“I see the impact of STEM around me every day at Holland Bloorview, through the extraordinary women who have chosen careers in the field to enrich children’s health care and families’ lives. The care we deliver depends on constant innovation and discovery, which is critical for many kids to lead their fullest lives.”

Fanny Hotzé
Research engineer

“There are still too many obstacles along the way for women and girls who choose to pursue a scientific path. If you’re interested in science or engineering, do not let anyone tell you that it is not for you. Believe in yourself, trust that your ideas are valuable, and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.”

Darlene Hubley
IPE leader, occupational therapy

“I would like to thank a few mentors and leaders at Holland Bloorview who have influenced me and encouraged me to value and pursue scholarship in education. Patty Rigby, for her curiosity and interest in contributing to the body of evidence-based care for occupational therapy in pediatrics, and to Steve Ryan for his leadership including the clinician voice on the research team. Also, I would like to thank Barb Gibson for her high-standard and excellent teaching on qualitative research. I'm so proud of the ever-increasing opportunities for women in STEM.”

Azadeh Kushki
Scientist, engineering

“Being an engineer is not about being a man or a woman; it’s about being curious, thinking of what can be, and making positive change happen.”

Carolyn Li
Clinical dietitian, nutrition services

“My passion and curiosity for food and nutrition brought me to the field of STEM/STEAM (Science, technology, engineering, arts and math). Human physiology is so fascinating and intrigues me as to how our body uses nutrients and water to help us think, move, feel, and function every day. Every living creature requires nutrients and water to live. I am grateful to be a registered dietitian because I can combine my interests in science, arts and math to practical life skills of cooking and baking, bringing joy and happiness for people at mealtimes while optimizing their nutritional status. It is what makes my day fulfilling and satisfying. Professionally, STEM/STEAM means integrating my mathematic skill and nutritional science knowledge with technology to optimize the nutritional status of those who cannot meet their nutrition and hydration needs orally alone. STEM/STEAM also means opportunity to utilize my culinary arts skills and food science knowledge to create and experiment with novel healthy food recipes to bring joy/comfort at mealtimes and enhance quality of life.”

Sally Lindsay
Senior scientist

“What inspires me, is being able to make the world a better, more inclusive place for children and youth with disabilities – even if that is just one small step at a time. When I was younger, in grade 6 and 7, I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher because I love working with little ones. During university I discovered that I really love research as well. Working here is really the best of both worlds. We need more diversity in STEM. Although there are still many challenges and inequities that women face in science, don't let that deter you from making a difference. Your ideas are important and need to be shared.”

Amy McPherson

“STEM brings new knowledge to the world, answering questions both big and small. It’s important that women and girls are asking and answering those questions. Work on things you are passionate about and get creative. Looking at things with a different lens can bring new meaning. My route into STEM wasn’t entirely conventional, but by exploring opportunities when they presented themselves, I’ve found myself in a fulfilling and exciting world of science, teaching and developing the next generation of STEM researchers.”

Fiona Moola
Scientist, music and the arts

“My tomorrow involves a world where women and girls are trailblazers in STEM! The time is now.”

Leslie Mumford
Research engineer

“Diversity in STEM is essential to creating solutions that meet the needs of all the individuals on this planet. There is no way one single voice can understand, let alone represent, the experience of every gender, race, nationality, culture, etc. Everyone has something unique to bring to the table and it benefits all of us to value those different viewpoints, and to challenge our own. The perseverance of the women in science who’ve come before you, fought for a seat at the table. And even if you’re the only woman there – remember that you deserve to be there and your ideas deserve to be heard. Keep going and you pave the way for future women and girls in science.”

Melanie Penner
Clinician investigator and developmental pediatrician

“Be curious, think critically, find a good mentor, and be a good mentor.”

Katherine Plewa
PhD, neurorehabilitation research

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your dreams are too big!”

Sandra Ramdial
Certified Prosthetist and Operations Manager, Orthotics and Prosthetics

“My math teacher in high school was a very passionate and amazing teacher – she had a real impact on me and as a result I did very well in her calculus class. We all have the ability to excel in any profession we choose and by remaining positive and determined we can encourage other women and girls to achieve anything they put their mind to! For those considering the field of orthotics and prosthetics, I'd suggest that they keep their options open by taking courses in math and science. Research the field – perhaps shadow an orthotic or prosthetic clinician or technician. I always knew I wanted to be in health care – we had a terrible motor vehicle accident and learned first-hand the importance of having caring professionals take care of our family. I have a passion, and am dedicated to, helping and caring for others – and after almost 30 years of practicing in the orthotics and prosthetics profession, I consider myself very lucky to have worked with a number of professionals, clients and families to progress the work we do and get great outcomes for our clients!”

Lynn Rampertab
Robotics coordinator, participation and inclusion, therapeutic recreation and life skills

“There is a lot of good work going on behind the scenes by policy makers and educators to bridge the gender gap by removing barriers and encouraging women to work and study in STEM fields. As a parent and educator I have always had an interest in technology and want to encourage other young girls, including my daughter, to pursue their dreams of becoming STEM professionals; to eventually close the gender gap. We all need to continue the momentum, keep the dialogue open, and keep inspiring young girls of a world of possibility.”

Rachel Reding
Master’s research student; biomedical engineering

“I often get asked what it's like to be a woman in engineering and to share challenges that I've experienced or have overcome because I represent a minority of people in the profession. It's exciting to see how engineering is becoming a more diverse field. These conversations have and will continue to make a difference in the development of the field. Diversity means we have a better representation of the world's population when designing solutions; this helps us overcome so many more of the world's problems. Ultimately, I'm excited for the day we stop having conversations about what it's like to be a woman in STEM because diversity should be status quo, not the abnormality.”

Yukari Seko
Research associate, transitions strategy

“Women can’t drive…Throwing like a girl… Women are kind, dependent, and nurturing… many sexist stereotypes we face today belittle and disempower so many of us. As a critical health communication scholar, I strive to deconstruct the tendency in STEM to privilege one ‘truth’ over another. Having more people with diverse gender, sexual, cultural identities, special needs and abilities will help us unsettle taken-for-granted assumptions and re-imagine the future.”

Shannon Scratch
Clinician scientist

“In science you are surrounded by people who are open to change and new ideas. People who are keen to move concepts forward for the betterment of society. This goal is limited without diversity and without unique perspectives to interpret findings and foster ideas. Diversity creates a balanced equation. Science can be demanding and rigorous. It’s a lot of work and training. But, women belong in science; we’re needed in science – a space where your intellect makes you mighty!”

Kaela Shea
Doctoral candidate, engineering student

“Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are tools we can use to save the world, tackle personal challenges, and everything in between. They are tools you can wield to accomplish anything you want to. You see the world unlike anyone else, so you alone know what changes you can make in the world.”

Marie Steele
Senior research ethics lead

“There are many different paths that can lead to careers in STEM that aren’t what people might typically associate with it. A career in research ethics, for example, allows you to combine your love of STEM with other fields such as bioethics, philosophy and research administration. I encourage women and girls in STEM to be creative and consider the different ways that they can combine their knowledge and interests to find a career path that suits them best.”

Sharon Wong
Director of Commercialization

“There are a lot of science-based careers you might not know about, so really go out there and talk to people. Learn all that you can about the creative careers out there, for example ones that blend science with other fields of study such as business, education, or even the arts. There’s a lot of opportunity, especially now with so many scientific advancements.”

Watch videos from some of Holland Bloorview’s exceptional women in STEM