The workplace remains one of many arenas that reflects the continuing social inequality between women and men; STEM fields have been consistently highlighted as particularly imposing for women.
From sexual harassment and assault to pervasive and denigrating stereotypes, the challenges to women in STEM fields can be considerable, leading some to pursue an entirely different career track and dissuading others from entering a STEM field in the first place.
UBC Women in Science strives to mitigate the effects of some of these challenges in order to make STEM more accessible and support women throughout their course of study at UBC.
According to Chanpreet Mangat, a fourth-year biology student and club president, there are three main pillars of Women in Science’s approach to achieving those goals: mentorship, community and connection.
Through their mentorship program, members of the club are matched with a graduate student, professional student or professor from the field that they are studying or considering studying.
All of the nearly two dozen mentors are women, so in addition to being able to offer information about career paths in their field generally, they are also able to counsel their mentees about some of the unique challenges they have faced because of their gender and share how they overcame them.
Mentees also work with their mentors to set personal goals, which mentors then help their students work towards achieving.
The main way that Women in Science aims to build community and connection is through a series of events held throughout the year.
From lab tours to professional workshops and career panel nights, these events are set up in part to give members the chance to learn about things like resume building and career planning as well as to show members what they might one day hope to be doing if they decide to pursue a STEM career.
Beyond just the practical knowledge these events provide, they also aim to foster a sense of community among members and give them the chance to meet like-minded women.
What Mangat hopes the club ultimately provides is a sense of community, as well as the opportunity to learn from those who have gone before.
“It’s mostly about increased support,” she said. “Since science is such a broad field, it can be hard to find your place within the faculty.”
As the club continues to grow, Mangat hopes that the mentorship program will evolve into an even more integral part of achieving the club’s mission and hopes that the club is able to offer even more events in the future.
She would also like to see the club develop partnerships with other clubs on campus that focus on engaging and supporting women, like the Focus on Women and Computing Society and Young Women in Business.
Hopefully the need for clubs and organizations like UBC Women in Science will one day fade away, but in the meantime, they will continue striving to be the best resource they can for the women of UBC.