Back to the Future: new web portal celebrates Canadian women’s contributions to STEM

Posted on Saturday, June 9, 2018


When you think of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), the names of Marie Curie or Roberta Bondar may spring to mind, but have you heard of Harriet Brooks or Margaret Newton?

Brooks and Newton are two Canadian scientists who have made significant contributions to their respective fields, the first to nuclear physics and the second to plant pathology and mycology.

But the fact that you might not have heard of them is unsurprising. Their names, much less their scientific contributions, are relatively unknown, which is typical of the general public’s lack of awareness of women’s contributions to STEM.

Today, movements are sprouting around the world to foster women’s interest in science and related careers, including a UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Coding skills have become a sought-after talent and global initiatives to promote and teach science and technology to girls abound.  What’s more, a rising number of women are enrolling in science and engineering in university.    

But what about their predecessors’ contributions to STEM and to society? Clearly, there is a need to highlight past contributions of women in STEM while also capturing the current experiences of women involved in these fields for the benefit of future generations.

With this in mind, a number of libraries, archives and STEM organizations have partnered to launch a new web portal that celebrates the history and achievements of women working in STEM fields in Canada. The University of Ottawa Library, along with Library and Archives Canada, the International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists Education Research Institute (INWES-ERI), has created the Canadian Archive of Women in STEM to preserve and promote records of significant research value, including artefacts and digital objects, produced by women involved in STEM and by the organizations that support them.

The web portal will aggregate all existing archival records relating to women in STEM across Canada to create a central resource for scholars conducting research on women in STEM and on the history of science and engineering in Canada. It will complement the archival material collected by the Canadian Women’s Movement Archives at the University of Ottawa, which already includes records generated by women engineers and scientists.

The portal will also serve as point of contact for women or organizations currently involved in STEM who wish to donate their own records for posterity, and will feature a practical guide on how to best organize and prepare records for donation to an archive.

Pull quotes:

“We aspire to create archives that will, someday, reflect the full diversity of our country.”

– Jacques Frémont, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Ottawa


“Broad perspectives breed great science. It is an honour to be here today celebrating the Canadian women of the past and present who have changed or are changing science for the better. They are an inspiration, and I’m excited that the histories of many more Canadian women in science will be included in this special archive.”

– Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities


"I am very happy to contribute to the realization of a centre of expertise on Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics with our partner, the University of Ottawa. This initiative is of the utmost timeliness."

– Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada


For information, please contact:

Isabelle Mailloux Pulkinghorn
Interim Manager, media relations
Communications Directorate, University of Ottawa
Cell: 613-240-0275

Ann Marie Paquet
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Science

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Dino Roberge
Head, Media Relations, Communications Branch
Library and Archives Canada / Government of Canada / Tel: 613-608-4260

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