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Plenty of room for everyone

WISE conference highlights opportunities

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Men have long outnumbered women in some fields, and almost 200 people gathered at the University of Calgary last weekend to do something about it.

"There's the need to educate all students about opportunities in science and engineering," said Allisha Sordi, President of Women in Science and Engineering. "[Gender discrepancies] is an issue that still exists in these fields and there's still a lot to be done about it."

The Prairie Conference on Women in Science and Engineering was held on Oct. 26 and 27 at the Rosza Centre. Students, academics, and professionals from across Canada discussed strategies to increase women's interest in science and engineering and to attract them to the careers therein.

"It's important to have people meet each other and network," said Conference Chair Dr. Elizabeth Cannon. "We want to share stories, learn from each other and hear about the latest research. This conference is important for both personal and professional growth."

The conference itself consisted of workshops and presentations on topics ranging from "The Art of Schmooze" to the conventional subjects like gender perceptions. Guests from the public and private sectors also addressed three broad areas: personal, professional, and educational/research development.

"Sometimes it feels like life is running us, instead of the other way around," said opening keynote speaker Kathy Sendall, starting the conference on an inspirational note. "I hope that choices are available to the young men and women of this generation."

By any measure, the Prairie Conference was a success. The number of people attending far exceeded the organizers' expectations of 75 people from the Prairie region.

Overall, Cannon believed that the participants had fun and that the U of C was proud to showcase the work it has done. According to Sordi, this conference is one part of a larger movement to encourage change in science and engineering. Other projects initiated by WISE include their poster campaign, encouraging students at all levels to become involved in these fields.

"Barriers exist in the way of realizing our goals, but they shouldn't deter you from reaching them," commented Sordi. "There are ways to make things work and to have fun while doing them."

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