#PressForProgress event featured an impactful message for women in STEM

13/03/2018  |  Events |  Posted by: Melissa Wu

(Dr. Molly Shoichet, Ontario’s Chief Scientist, opened the night with a moving speech)

On March 8, University Health Network partnered with JLabs and hosted the first ever #PressForProgress Conference in honour of International Women’s Day in Toronto. With 350 guests, it was an outstanding turnout in support of gender equality in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field.

Dr. Molly Shoichet, Ontario’s Chief Scientist, kicked off the night with a moving speech where she highlighted turning points in her academia and professional career. Dr. Shoichet’s journey demonstrated that working hard and being intentional about making change is a big part of the equation to making strides in STEM. Dr. Shoichet says, “If you want to make change, you have to make it happen.” 

(L-R Dr. Gelareh Zadeh, Doina Oncel, Melissa Sariffodeen and Catherine Wang)

Dr. Gelareh Zadeh, Head of Surgical Oncology at UHN and neurosurgeon-scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, also spoke at the event and shared her experience cultivating a career in a field that is complex and life-changing for many. Although the neurosurgery division lacked women, Dr. Zadeh was fortunate to find mentors who supported and encouraged her to reach her full potential. 

One of the lessons Dr. Zadeh learned in her undergraduate class was based on receiving a high math score among a class of mostly men. “I think men and women are equally intelligent in various categories, but the assumption was that I shouldn’t have beat any of the guys in my class. I wrote the test not assuming that I'm going to beat or not beat them, I just wanted to do the best I'm going to do in this class." 

Despite the bias she felt, Dr. Zadeh persevered and is now a strong female leader at UHN.

According to Catherine Wang, VP of Clinical Operations and Diagnostic Partnerships at UHN, UHN’s senior management team consists of 50% female leaders, a first for the organization.

The event featured a panel of well-established women with backgrounds in technology, research, and entrepreneurship, including Christine Allen, Drug Delivery and Cancer Researcher at University of Toronto, Doina Oncel, CEO of hEr Volution, and Melissa Sariffodeen, CEO and Co-Founder of Canada Learning Code.  

The night concluded with a networking session and an optional tour of JLabs. Overall, the event was very successful for its first run. The #PressForProgress Conference gave both men and women exposure to STEM leaders who believe that gender equality is the way of the future. The takeaway message from the night is the following: The change we seek is found in the conversations about intentional change and is to be had between both men and women.