What Does a Scientist Look Like?
Insight Rachel Ward-Maxwell, staff astronomer at the Ontario Science Centre is breaking stereotypes on what a scientist looks like.
Not all heroes wear capes, and not all scientists wear lab coats. Astronomers don’t typically wear lab coats, and as the staff astronomer at the Ontario Science Centre, I want to help change perceptions about what a scientist can look like. I know first-hand what it is like to train as a scientist in the largely male-dominated field of computational astrophysics.
Diversity is strength — for humans and for the biodiversity of ecosystems. It helps life thrive. To that point, science needs women.
Gender diversity is limited in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), but I’ve learned much about what we can do to support budding science enthusiasts. Recognize biases. Self-reflect. Amplify the voices of those who are less heard.
Canada needs, and wants, increased science literacy. According to our Science Literacy Survey, 81 percent of Canadians don’t understand the impact of science on their everyday lives, yet 83 percent want to learn more about science and how it affects our world.
STEM studies should be for everyone, not just for those who plan to become scientists. Studying science is a workout for your brain. It strengthens critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and helps you to become more open-minded. Scientific knowledge can even open doors to careers and be important for many jobs outside of STEM.
The responsibility rests on all of us to encourage women and other underrepresented groups in STEM in an effort to create a more science-literate nation. You don’t need a cape to be a hero to someone — you can use your voice.