Oct. 16, 2019

Message for young women in STEM: 'You belong here!'

UCalgary VP Linda Dalgetty encourages high school students as SheBiz hosts campus event in support of STEM careers

On Oct. 15 at our UCalgary campus, 100 female high school students gathered to find inspiration and guidance from the city’s most accomplished women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and business — all with one goal in mind: empower young women to enter STEM and business fields in post-secondary and beyond.

It’s been a continuing trend in Canada that despite receiving higher academic averages in STEM courses, young, female-identifying students are less likely to enrol in those programs at university. SheBiz, organized by the non-profit Women in Capital Markets (WCM), aims to accelerate gender diversity in these fields across the country. As a top Canadian university creating professionals and innovators in STEM faculties, UCalgary is deeply tied to SheBiz’s mission and success.

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Christie-Burns' keynote speech at SheBiz set the ambitious tone for the day's activities and panels.

Photo by Jodi Egan, University of Calgary

A perfect partnership

For the last four years, SheBiz has received university sponsorship thanks to one of our own female trailblazers, Linda Dalgetty, vice-president (finance and services). As an ardent supporter of SheBiz and WCM, Dalgetty uses her broad base of expertise in business, international finance and information technology as a basis for inspiring young girls to enter STEM fields — which she says is a must to ensure diversity in future leadership roles.

“When you have diversity at the table where decisions are being made, there will undoubtedly be better discussions and better results,” Dalgetty says. “I want to inspire these young women to take risks and grab opportunities because there are no limits if you have the passion and the drive to be successful.

"No matter your gender identity, you belong here.”

Though her career has taken her to many industries at home and abroad, Dalgetty says she didn’t consider gender a limitation in male-dominated workplaces.

“In my many roles as a business leader, I broke down myths about women in STEM and business because I had four children and a serious, successful career,” Dalgetty says. “I never felt held back, but I saw women putting limitations on themselves. I try to be a role model who demonstrates that determination and-risk taking can lead to career success.

SheBiz, Dalgetty says, is a place where these motivated young women can learn from strong, accomplished professionals — individuals who are successful because they were dedicated, driven and confident in their abilities.

“It’s important for young girls to see accomplished women who impart wisdom and guidance,” she says. “As a learning institution, it’s incumbent upon us to support events and organizations like this.”

Inspiring future leaders

SheBiz's keynote speaker for 2019 was the University of Calgary’s newest Board of Governors appointee, Heather Christie-Burns. A UCalgary alumna herself, Christie-Burns has had a career as an energy entrepreneur, founding two Canadian start-up oil and gas companies.

In her speech, Christie-Burns elaborated on her experiences as young, ambitious woman in a STEM field, but also the lengths she had to go to to be included at the table. From being told she was a diversity hire in her first internship, to not being invited to team get-togethers, she says the best thing a woman in STEM can do for herself is be heard, be strong and be smarter than the competition. 

Dalgetty says UCalgary — as a top university in Canada teaming with entrepreneurs, innovators and change-makers — is primed to help these students reach their dreams to be the next generation of leaders in these crucial industries.

“These young women are our future leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship — shaping our economies and communities for the better,” she says. “I’m so excited the University of Calgary is involved in this incredible day that will inspire so many women to be their best selves in their careers and in their lives.”

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Over 100 students from around Calgary gathered at UCalgary to discuss the role of women in STEM.

Photo by Jodi Egan, University of Calgary