Women are scientists, too

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Girl Guides of Canada–Guides du Canada is bursting with pride to mark International Women’s Day today. It’s a powerful opportunity to to celebrate the trailblazing difference girls and women around the world are making.

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Krysta Coyle

Most of my friends will tell you I’m proud to be a Girl Guide. Girl Guides has given me tangible survival skills – I can put up a tent, light a fire, cook on a camp stove, and survive at a winter tent camp. More importantly, though, Girl Guides has given me the skills I need to navigate and survive a career in science. You see, when I’m not a Unit Guider (or Link member, or co-District Commissioner), I’m a Ph.D. student studying breast cancer biology.

Girl Guides helped me develop a love for science and a passion for research. As a Pathfinder and as a Ranger, I participated in a fantastic opportunity offered by the Alberta GGC Council and the Barrier Lake Field Stations (University of Calgary) to spend a week learning about the environment and careers in science, and wading through bogs and climbing over trees to collect data with graduate researchers. While I don’t do field work for my research, I’ve learned some important lessons in my Girl Guide journey:

  1. There are women working in science. Having female mentors for these all-encompassing experiences, and even for the science badges I completed at unit meetings or smaller outings, left a huge impact on me. Although my field of work has reached gender parity, it still feels like a male-dominated field. I don’t see a lot of women sitting on research panels at big conferences, or in tenured faculty positions – but I know they’re out there.
  2. There’s a lot to be gained from taking risks. I was a quiet, shy Spark and Brownie who would rather be reading a book than spending a week (really, even a day) with total strangers. Girl Guides gives me a safe place to try something new – whether it was hiking through the night at Calgary’s Nite Trek, going back to the Barrier Lake Field Stations as a Guider, or planning a new experience for my unit today. I can be a better scientist because my fear doesn’t stop me from trying.
  3. There is a scientist in everyone! I was lucky to have strong female scientists in my life (including my mom!) who encouraged my interest in science even when it was tough. It makes me sad to hear girls say, “I can’t do that,” because it’s not true! Science is everywhere – and if I can show the girls I work with enough different ways to be involved, I think they’ll all find something that they enjoy. Maybe as a hobby, maybe as a career, but who knows?

While I know the biggest obstacles for me, as a female scientist, are yet to come, I know that Girl Guides has prepared me well!

There's science in everything - even candy! Our unit held a candy and STEM sleepover.

There’s science in everything – even candy! Our unit held a candy and STEM sleepover.

Do you know girls interested in STEM? Encourage them to:

  • connect with a mentor working in STEM
  • participate in STEM activities offered by GGC
  • ask their Guiders for resources and activities to use at home
  • try new things – even if they’re scared.

Guest post by Krysta Coyle. Krysta is a co-District Commissioner for Halifax South District and (the new!) National Link Liaison. When not busy with GGC, Krysta is a Ph.D. student in Pathology at Dalhousie University.

Krysta will be a WAGGGS delegate at the United Nations Conference on the Status of Women (March 20-25) – follow her on Twitter @microbialkrysta.

Check out our International Women’s Day instant meeting, and inspire the girls in your unit to write their own history. Post photos of your International Women’s Day activities on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with hashtag #IWD2016.

 

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