Liette Vasseur was among more than 600 advocates of gender equality from various science,
innovation and development affiliations who participated in the Gender Summit North America
2017 earlier this month.
Vasseur attended the summit, which took place in Montreal from November 6 to 8, as a
representative of the Canadian Council for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (CCUNESCO).
This marked the 11th year of the international summit and the first time that it was
held in Canada. It was organized by Natural sciences and Engineering Research Council and
Fonds de recherché du Québec, with the partnership of the CCUNESCO.
The summit works to promote gender equality and diversity in research and innovation, with this
year’s theme focusing on “Embracing pluralism and thriving through diversity – shaping science
Attendees ranged from students, educators and policy makers to government officials such as the
the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science.
“It was a very good meeting,” Vasseur said, “There was a very clear message that we need more
desegregated data, and that it needs to be better utilized to understand the challenges and barriers
to inclusivity in the sciences.”
She added: “There was also a clear message from Minister Duncan that we need to have
universities clearly stating their policies in regards to gender equality and inclusion and that the
government will really be pushing the issue to the higher level.”
At the summit, Vasseur was part of a large panel discussion entitled, “Best Practices: Global
Perspectives on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in STEM.” During this discussion, Vasseur
explored global initiatives that aim to better promote, support, and contribute to the rise of
women in STEM fields.
Vasseur discussed the UNESCO STEM and Gender Advancement (SAGA) initiative and her work with the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology (CCWEST).
“We must combat the decline of women in the sciences and the bias that exists – by both men
and women – against their potential and capabilities,” she said. “It’s about recruitment first,
getting more women into STEM fields, but then also ensuring they stay in these fields and
progress through their masters, PhD and eventually into the working world. Then, when we get
to hiring, ensuring there is a diverse pool of women to be selected and closing the gender gap in
Vasseur also spoke on behalf of the CCUNESCO when five Canadian researchers were
honoured and rewarded through the LOréal-UNESCO for Women in Science program. The
L'Oréal-UNESCO 2017 Excellence in Research Fellowships, each worth $20,000, are awarded
to support major postdoctoral research projects undertaken by young Canadians at a pivotal time
in their career. They were awarded to Dr. Marie-Ève Lebel, PhD, Post-doctoral Fellow, Melichar
Laboratory, Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Research Centre and Dr. Kelly Suschinsky, PhD,
Post-doctoral Fellow, SAGE Laboratory, Queen’s University. Three other awards were also
awarded at the same time.
“It was very inspiring seeing so many bright and driven women working
toward the goal of inclusivity” Vasseur said. “But, we know that we have to keep up the
momentum that was created there, that’s something that was very clear. We need to continue to
discuss this issue and figure out ways to move ahead in many aspects because there is much
work to still be done.”