Canada is home to some of the world’s greatest minds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but with women only representing 25 percent of Canada’s STEM workforce, we still aren’t achieving our full innovation potential.

Addressing the question of how we get more girls and women into STEM is critical, as the demand for knowledge and skills in these fields continues to grow rapidly.

The answer begins with society recognizing why gender parity in STEM matters. Gender parity is not about achieving 50 percent quotas; it’s about recognizing that we need women’s perspectives to advance and solve the world’s big problems. Gender parity in STEM will help to reduce the gender wage gap and will contribute significantly to the economic and social prosperity of this country. 

Second, we need to understand and break down the barriers girls and women continue to face in STEM engagement from an early age. We need to engage girls early and often through as many channels as possible, fighting to remove societal cues, gestures, and stereotypes of “who does STEM.”

It is important that we change the narrative, from how girls need to change to fit into STEM to how society needs to change to create a welcoming and fair environment that is free from gender stereotypes, structural constraints in the workplace, and formal or informal biases. Key influencers of girls — including parents, teachers, and policy makers — need information on these barriers, as well as training on how they can keep their girls engaged.

This issue is especially critical as digital skills become recognized as a basic literacy necessary for future employment success. If girls are left out of the development of digital skills, which many are, they will be left of out not only computer science careers but virtually every other job. If women’s perspectives are not represented in STEM, we will continue to live in a world designed almost exclusively by men.

Girls are good at science and they are driven to make change in their worlds.

They will eliminate the lines between social and economic innovation and apply their talents to solve our big issues. Girls want to lead, and they want the skills to create new solutions.  As a society we must encourage girls — whether it’s your daughters, students, cousins, nieces, or neighbours — to get involved in STEM activities at every opportunity. Your support can change everything.