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Three Tuesday online talks in September will give public a chance to learn about career opportunities
Soapbox Science was developed a few years back in London, England, based on the tradition of public speakers standing on wooden crates in Hyde Park to engage audiences on a variety of topics. The public outreach platform promotes women scientists and the work they do as a means to encourage other women to consider careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine) fields.
While more women are pursuing careers in STEM fields than ever before, a substantial gender gap continues to exist. A release from organizers for the St. John’s Soapbox Science event — happening three consecutive Tuesdays on Sept. 15, 22 and 29 — also noted there are far fewer women in leadership positions.
“I think it comes down to diversity in general,” said co-organizer Sarah Sauvé, a music scientist and post-doctoral fellow at Memorial University who studies how the human brain processes sound. “The more diverse points of view you have, the more insight you can have into different problems. People from different walks of life have different ways of looking at the world — will look at problems, look at data differently ... and be able to add to the discourse in interesting ways. But if everyone is the same, you’re not going to get as much progress as when you have different people working the same problem.
“This applies not just to women, but also intersectional feminism, including people of colour, people of different backgrounds, queer people. All sorts of marginalized populations, we should really be encouraging across the board more engagement with science. I think that will help us more forward faster and have more interesting discussions.”
Sauvé first encountered Soapbox Science last year at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market and was immediately impressed. Working alongside fellow co-organizers Özgen Demirkaplan and Christina Prokopenko, her hope was to do similar presentations at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market, but COVID-19 forced them to move online.
Each session will feature three speakers, giving them each three minutes to introduce themselves before taking questions from the organizers. Virtual attendees will also get to chime in with questions.
Ashley Noseworthy, CEO of Edgewise Environmental in St. John’s, is among those speakers. Her company, founded in 2018, is Canada’s first environmental consultancy firm dedicated to marine mammal observation, seabird observation and acoustic monitoring training. She feels strongly about the importance of encouraging women to consider careers in STEM.
“I am very much an advocate for women in science and women in STEM,” she said. “I think it’s important because it gives a different viewpoint. Everybody has different experiences.”
While Noseworthy is pleased to note her work on marine mammal and seabird observation frequently involves training women, that’s less often the case when it comes to people in management roles or academia for marine mammal acoustics.
In terms of the audience she would hope to reach through her own Soapbox Science talk on Sept. 22, Noseworthy is not only looking for young women.
“I think it’s also important to reach people like parents who perhaps recognize in their own children, particularly their own daughters, that they might have an aptitude for STEM fields and to really encourage that. I would hope to bring on board any young women that would have any interest. Anybody in an educational field where they might see an aptitude in some of their female students, to really push them and make them more aware of some programs that might exist — like (Newfoundland and Labrador non-profit) Women in Science and Engineering, or their might be internships for women in non-traditional fields. Just to make them more aware that women are active in STEM fields by example of the people that are going to give the talks.”
The backgrounds of the speakers vary, covering such diverse topics as viruses, physics, ocean noise, neuroscience, sitting and hyenas and wolves.
“Almost everyone is in a different field, which is really great,” said Sauvé.
The online talks are free, but registration is mandatory and can be done by searching ‘Soapbox Science St. John’s’ at eventbrite.ca. The talks will take place at 2 p.m. except for the Sept. 22 talk, which is at 5 p.m. You can follow the hashtag #soapboxscienceNL on Twitter and Facebook for event details and speaker introductions.