Great ideas come from innovative women working in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). And yet, because there is a significant gender gap in STEM, we’re missing out on greater possibilities and must encourage girls and young women to consider STEM careers. STEM needs women to provide critical perspectives to innovation around the world.
According to 2019 Statistics Canada data, women make up less than a quarter of Canada’s science and technology jobs held by workers between 25 and 64 years old. To help increase the number of women in STEM, Olay has partnered with Actua Canada, the country’s largest STEM outreach organization, to empower girls to pursue STEM careers. Olay, as a brand rooted in 70 years of skin science, understands the importance of the STEM industry, and has made a 10-year commitment to help #FaceTheSTEMGap amongst young women since 2018.
Jennifer Flanagan, Actua’s CEO, notes the importance of its partnership with Olay to help close the gender gap. “For over two decades, Actua has been working to remove barriers to girls and women so that they can pursue education and careers in STEM,” she says. “It is essential that women are at the table in these fields in equal numbers to ensure the products, services and solutions they produce are representative of our population. We will continue to show our future leaders how they can change the world through science.”
One of the factors keeping girls out of STEM careers is communication. The way we talk about science and engineering and how information is made available affects how accessible it is for girls. A study by the National Academy of Engineering revealed that when girls were asked if they wanted to be engineers, they were twice as likely as boys to say no. Yet these same girls said they wanted to use DNA to solve crimes, say, or to design a safe water system, not fully understanding that these activities are, in fact, tied to careers in engineering.
Another factor contributing to the low numbers of women and girls in STEM is representation. Seeing women in STEM positions encourages girls to follow similar paths. Four out of five girls and young women surveyed in 2018 said that seeing women and girls as STEM characters on television was important to them. Yet only about 37 per cent of STEM characters in film, television and streaming services are women. Girls tend not to consider careers in STEM when they only see men in those roles.
You can also support Actua’s National Girl Program by purchasing a limited-edition Olay Retinol STEM jar—available exclusively at Canadian Walmart stores. Fifteen dollars from each STEM jar sold will go toward the program, up to $25,000, plus a $50,000 direct donation from Olay. For 20 years now, this program has connected 10,000 girls annually with female mentors, instructors and role models. It offers all-girl science clubs, day and overnight camps, conferences, career fairs and other special events—all with the goal of breaking stereotypes about women in STEM.
“As a brand, Olay is scientifically driven and its products are formulated by female technicians, engineers, mathematicians and scientists—like myself—who are able to use their skill set toward developing the very skincare items so many women across Canada use each day,” says Dr. Wilkerson. “It’s an honour to be able to share my story and encourage the next generation of female scientists to consider a path like my own.”
Learn more about Actua and its programs.
See what successful female STEM leaders do
Actua and Olay have partnered with female STEM leaders to be Olay STEM ambassadors. These incredible women show that STEM jobs are not only held by women, but that they can be leaders in a wide range of industries from space exploration to health care and beauty.
Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, Ph.D.
Science Communications Fellow, Olay
Rolanda is the Lead Principal Scientist at Olay, advocate and mentor to young women and girls interested in pursuing a career in STEM. She has an innate passion for beauty care as well as science! Born and raised in Baker, LA, she would do hair and experiment with makeup on her dolls and friends. In 2003, her dream to merge her love of beauty and science became a reality when she accepted a position at P&G, where she works with dermatologists, clinicians and P&G beauty scientists to research and report on the latest and emerging skin and hair science and technologies that have applications for consumer products.
“Knowing that there weren’t a lot of women in STEM professions, I was motivated by that challenge to become one of those women so I can help other women.”
Amal Jina, P.Eng, C.E.M, M.Eng
Building Energy Manager, Walmart Canada
As a building energy manager, Amal is responsible for researching tactics to optimize the energy consumption of Walmart’s buildings across Canada and find solutions to ensure Walmart Canada achieves its goal of being 100 per cent renewable by 2035 and zero carbon by 2040.
“The most fulfilling part of my job is knowing I am making an impact to future generations of society. For over three decades, women in engineering has grown by only three per cent. There needs to be a change in how STEM careers are unveiled to young women, invoking motivation and inspiration.”
President and CEO, Actua
Canada’s largest STEM outreach organization, Actua was launched in the mid-90s by Jennifer and a passionate group of university students who were on a mission to inspire more youth to pursue a career in STEM with the shared belief that our future will only be as successful as the diverse perspectives that shape it.
“We need to shift the narrative away from how can girls change to fit STEM to how can we change STEM so it’s more inclusive of girls and other underrepresented groups.”
Natalie Panek, M.Sc, D.Sc
Aerospace Engineer, MDA Space
Natalie is a rocket scientist, adventurer and aerospace engineer currently working at the space technology company, MDA. She has worked on a number of space projects, including MDA’s satellite servicing initiative and ESA’s 2020 ExoMars rover program. In her current role in Mission Systems at MDA’s robotics and automation division, she works on Canadian space robotics and other space exploration programs. Her website, Panek Room, is a space where she encourages young women to pursue challenging careers in nontraditional fields and explore the outdoors.
“Many girls and young women are already inspired by and passionate about STEM and want to go into these fields. We have to put in the work to acknowledge, recognize and eliminate barriers that prevent them from entering or drive them out of STEM.”
Dr. Pamela De Lendeu, Biology MSc, Ph.D.
Research Scientist, Neurosciences and Pharmacology
Pamela was drawn to a career in medicine at an early age, being fascinated by research and physiology of the human body. Pursuing this calling, she completed her master’s degree in cell biology, followed by a doctorate in neuroscience. She exemplified sheer determination throughout her career journey in STEM, including moving across the country to complete her studies. The desire to make her mark in the world of science as a strong, female leader always motivated her to reach her goals.
“I feel very proud to see women interested in STEM careers, and that they have realized that they can do just as much as men in these fields.”
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