Education and outreach

The deck stacked against women in science

Originally published in Blogs. This article reflects the outreach work conducted by Dr. Dave Ng and the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory at the Michael Smith Laboratories. Outreach and education are part of the guiding principles at the MSL and it connect MSL’s fundamental science to Canadian communities.

Written by Nicola Jones of Blogs

The player on my left has the biochemist Maud Menten’s career well on track. Suddenly another player slaps a “stupid patriarchy” card on Menten’s head, and she has to earn her doctorate all over again. So goes a novel card game devoted to women in science and engineering, designed to highlight these unsung researchers and the barriers and boons that women in these fields experience.

Menten (1879-1960) was one of the first women in Canada to earn a medical degree atop her PhD. But at the time women weren’t allowed to do research at Canadian universities; she had to conduct her famous work on enzyme kinetics in the United States and Germany. Menten is one of 21 pioneering women scientists, mostly from North America, featured in the game — the latest in a series that began in 2000 with a biodiversity game called Phylo. The card deck was developed by an innovative science outreach programme at Vancouver’s University of British Columbia (UBC), in collaboration with Westcoast Women in Engineering, Science and Technology (WWEST) at Burnaby’s Simon Fraser University (SFU). Players complete researchers’ careers by collecting cards for achievements such as degrees, and try to avoid setbacks — such as the “tokenism” card, which wipes a scientist in play off the table.

“These are my favourites,” says computer engineer and WWEST chair Lesley Shannon, pointing to Alice Ball and Hedy Lamarr. Ball (1892-1916), the first woman and African-American Masters graduate from the University of Hawaii, developed a critical leprosy treatment. After her early death, university president Arthur Dean took credit for her work. Hollywood star Lamarr (1914-2000) co-invented frequency technologies used in WiFi and beyond.

To read the full article on Blogs, please click here.