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“This is the time to be a woman in STEM”

WISE U of T hosts inaugural International Women’s Day Gala

“This is the time to be a woman in STEM”

U of T’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) chapter hosted their inaugural International Women’s Day Gala on March 10 to celebrate women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The gala included a keynote speech and panel discussion by female entrepreneurs in STEM, as well as multiple student performances.

Janelle Hinds was the gala’s keynote speaker. She is a former McMaster University engineering student and founder of Helping Hands, an app that connects high school students with volunteer opportunities.

The gala also featured panel discussion led by Ami Shah, CEO and co-founder of Peekapak, an online education tool used to develop social-emotional learning skills in children, and Jenise Lee, founder and CEO of PurPicks, a review platform for organic beauty and skincare products.

In her keynote speech, Hinds described the constant doubt she receives from men as a female engineer and entrepreneur.

“I was one of the first people on my campus to start making android apps. When I did, I had some guys come up to me… [and say] ‘If you can do it, it must be so easy,’” said Hinds. “It really made me realize why women in science and engineering societies are so important. Throughout our days as women, we’re going to constantly… get guys who don’t recognize the strength and power we have.”

During the panel discussion, Lee spoke on a similar topic, saying that she wished she had learned earlier in life that she was capable of launching her own company. 

“When you see a job posting… apply with confidence. If you don’t apply, we won’t see your resume. You don’t know that you’re not better than most of the candidates,” said Lee.

Ami Shah told the women in the room that they should not be afraid of going after opportunities. “If you’re smart and capable and driven, all these companies are looking to make change,” she said. “I think really it’s showing up and showing what you’re capable of and taking those opportunities.”

The gala also featured dance performances from the Vic Dance Team and Ryerson dance students Hannah Stein and Rumi Jeraj. U of T students Victoria Hue and Brian Nghiem gave musical performances, while Sanna Wani, Roya Abedi, and Gabrielle Pearce performed spoken word pieces.

“Events like U of T’s International Women’s Day Gala are incredibly powerful—it is empowering to be surrounded by women who are looking to find ways to make the world a more just place for women,” wrote Lee to The Varsity. She described the gala as “full of strong, vulnerable, smart and capable women who are going to be tomorrow’s leaders.”

Lina Elfaki, WISE Vice-President of Outreach, said that she hopes the gala has inspired people to advocate for women in STEM and helped women realize their own strength.

“International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to not only recognize all the women’s struggles, from gender violence to the wage gap to abuse, but also to celebrate all our accomplishments towards gender equality,” said Elfaki.

Echoing Elfaki’s sentiments, WISE President Syeda Anjum stated that she hopes the event will inspire people to get involved in the WISE community and realize that there is a community out there for them.

Women get WISE at annual conference

U of T WISE 2016 National Conference proves to be a great opportunity for students to connect with professionals

Women get WISE at annual conference

U of T Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) hosted its annual national conference at the Toronto region board of trade last weekend. The conference brought together industry experts and approximately 250 student attendees for on opportunity to participate and connect with professionals.

Jaquelyn Monis, the conference chair of WISE 2016 explained that their objective was not only to provide professional development, but also to connect students with companies hiring for summer internships. 

“This year we have 15 different companies, compare[d] to two or three in the past years” said Monis in reference to industry attendance at the event.

The 2016 WISE Conference featured keynote speaker Jacqueline Shan, founder of Afinity Life Sciences, who spoke during the opening ceremony.

Shan opened by sharing her experience as an international student who struggled with English as a second language, and how she overcame barriers and prosper as an entrepreneur and scientist.

She delivered a powerful speech, promoting persistence and perseverance in her pursuit of success.

“It’s simple, but often hard to do. It’s hard to believe in yourself, believe in your dream when you’re laying off your co-workers,” Shan added. 

In addition to providing networking opportunities for students, the WISE conference also featured a group of panelists, including Cathy Tie, co-founder and CEO of Ranomics.

Cathy was a first-year life sciences student at U of T when she received venture capital funding in 2015 for her project. She spoke to attendees about what she learned from the experience and why it’s so important to have self confidence in order to move forward.

“Even though it’s a chapter of women in science and engineering, one of our messages is to [be] inclusive of everybody and to showcase that it’s possible to get far regardless of gender,” said Monis. 

As a fourth-year student, Monis expressed excitement to hear from the speakers on their diverse experiences.   

On its second day, the WISE conference closed its doors following the announcement of the winners of their poster and case competitions.

The WISE 2016 National Conference Poster Competition, sponsored by General Electric, gave students an opportunity to present their research to judges for the chance to win a $1000 cash prize. Sahil Gupta, graduate student at the U of T’s  Institute of Medical Sciences, was announced as the winner for his research in Heat Shock Protein 90 (HSP90) in relation to sepsis and experimental inflammation. 

Amada Persaud, Eashita Ratwani, Nadia Khan, and Shawna Wei were the winners of the case competition, earning the $1000 prize and an interview opportunity for a position at Tata Consultancy Services, another of the competition’s corporate sponsors.

Throughout the school year, WISE at U of T is also involved in other initiatives such as providing opportunites for professional development, mentorships, high school, as well as community outreach. With initiatives like its annual conference, WISE continues to try to improve the state of women in science and engineering.