Sophia Huyer-Closing Statement

Date: Tue Dec 07 1999 - 08:57:47 EST


As the Women and Girls in Science discussion closes, it is fitting to
remember the 14 female engineering students at the Montreal Ecole
Polytechnique who were systematically separated from the male students and
killed ten years ago today. Their killer, Marc Lepine, specifically
targetted the women in a self acknowledged anti-feminist and misogynist
act. A minute of silence was observed at 3pm this afternoon in the
Canadian Parliament and across the country.

This event should also remind us that in North America there exist
cultural and social barriers to women and girls' achievements in S&T, and
that we should be careful about assuming that the situation is 'better'
here than in other parts of the world. In fact, according to Wotipka and
Ramirez (1999) women make up larger percentages of the scientific
workforce in Mexico, Argentina and Eastern Europe (twenty to fifty percent
of scientific researchers in these countries are women) compared to only 5
percent in the US, Britain and Canada (in their chapter "Women in Science:
For Development, For Human Rights, for Themselves" in the upcoming
publication _Science in the Modern World Polity: Institutionalization and
Globalization_). Other studies and personal observation indicate that as
Eastern Europe goes through 'transition', women are losing their
pre-transition position. All of this goes to show that we have a lot to
learn from each others' experience, in my view, and could all equally
benefit from exchange of experiences, strategy and research between North
and South.

Wotipka and Ramirez also present more sobering information: that while
overall numbers of women in science are generally increasing around the
world, the percentage of women engaging in science compared to other areas
of research and careers is *decreasing*. What will that mean as scientific
research and technology come to affect every aspect of our lives - from
Viagra to online shopping? Current debates around genetically-modified
foods, genetic engineering and other aspects of the applications of
biotechnology reinforce the need for balanced and gendered research,
policy and implementation.

I think we are starting to see increasing exchanges between women
scientists from around the world on these and other issues -- certainly
through email and the Internet, but also as a result of initiatives such
as the World Conference on Science and the Once and Future Action Network.
Some future international gender and science initiatives I am aware of
include the ICSU Capacity Building Programme and the International
Conference of Women Engineers and Scientists, which will be held in
Ottawa, Canada in July 2002 (the conference will be hosted by the Canadian
Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science and Technology - information
should be posted on their web site at I'm sure there are
many, many more...
I have very much enjoyed the discussion on this list over the past few
days. Some very useful points and suggestions have been raised, which I
intend to raise in other fora, including the Gender Advisory Board, UNCSTD
and in discussion with UNESCO staff. (A question for the organisers: Will
there be any 'formal' summary or statement of the discussion which we can
bring to organisations such as UNESCO and UNIFEM?) I also invite any
participants who are interested in further discussion on any of the
'international' issues raised to write me personally to continue the

Best regards,
Sophia Huyer

Sophia Huyer
Women in Global Science and Technology
623 Brimley Road
Grafton, Ontario K0K 2G0
Tel (1-905) 349-9962
Fax (1-905) 349-2066

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