2017: A Year in Review

December 08, 2017

Written by: Vanessa Reich-Shackelford

2017 has been a busy year here at WWEST, with new initiatives and the expansion of old ones. Throw some travel, lots of blog posts, and a new podcast into the mix, and you have what proves to be a productive year for advancing women in STEM.

Let's take a look at some of the highlights.

Creating Connections

On May 5th and 6th, WWEST brought together 238 people for two days of networking, panels, workshops, and keynote speeches. After months of planning, hard work and perspiration, we are proud to say that this event was a resounding success! The event featured keynotes by Jill Earthy (Chief Growth Officer at FrontFundr), Kathy Kinloch (President of BCIT), and Wyle Baoween (CEO and Co-Founder of HRx Technologies Inc.). There were workshops and panel discussions dedicated to personal and professional development, entrepreneurship, and advocating with impact. Event feedback included comments like, “I really liked how it focused on Diversity for all, not just women. This is much more inclusive and provides a better platform for buy in,” and, “All sessions were presented by powerful speakers and made a big impression on me! I gained a lot of new experiences, new perspectives and thoughts, and learned a lot about improving myself (and me as a brand) and my network.”

Check out the blog post recap and read the wrap report (which includes pictures, event stats, and more).

Best of the WWEST Podcast

WWEST began the podcast because we believe that providing role models for women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math can change the world. We hear from our guests about their lives, careers, and everything in between. On April 11, we published our first episode, which featured Cole Brown, a lead front-end web developer. Since that first episode, the guests on the podcast have included people from a variety of STEM fields:

Cole Brown, Web Developer
Justine Munich, PhD Student (Physics)
Christiana Cheng, PhD, Research Associate
Gordana Pejic, Software Engineer
Victoria Camp, Geological Engineer in Training
Janet Fraser, PhD, BC Green Party MLA Candidate
Anne Simon, PhD, Virologist and "X-Files" Science Advisor
Cybele Negris, CEO,
Jane Gachuche, Fire Safety Engineer in Training
Leigh Wall, Apprentice Truck and Transport Mechanic

We have enjoyed speaking with all of our exceptional guests, and you can hear all the episodes at or wherever you get your podcasts.

President’s Dream Colloquium

The President’s Dream Colloquium is a signature event of Simon Fraser University (SFU). The Colloquium brings the world’s leading thinkers to SFU to facilitate a forum for intensive interdisciplinary exchange amongst SFU’s faculty and students as well as the general public, in the form of a lecture series and a graduate course. This fall, WWEST Chair Dr. Lesley Shannon hosted the Colloquium, entitled Women in Technology: Attracting, Retaining and Promoting Diverse Talent, and taught the parallel graduate course. The speaker series featured expert guests:

Juliette Powell, Founder, Turing AI and; and Author, 33 Million People in the Room
Dr. Maria Klawe, President, Harvey Mudd College
Shari Graydon, Founder, Informed Opinions
Dr. Steven Spencer, Robert K. and Dale J. Weary Chair in Social Psychology, Ohio State University
Dr. Cathy O'Neil, Author, Weapons of Math Destruction
Dr. Danielle Gaucher, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Winnipeg
Jo Miller, Founder, Be Leaderly

Please visit the Colloquium website to watch the lectures, and visit our Best of the WWEST podcast page to hear mini-interviews with some of the speakers.


WWEST also saw a few corners of the world this year. Highlights include WWEST Chair Dr. Lesley Shannon's trip to Washington, DC, in March of this year. She was the representative of Canada in the “Science and Technology Education for Youth” project, organized by the US State Department as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). This program is a professional exchange program, allowing current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience the United States and support the foreign policy goals of the country. Dr. Shannon, along with representatives from 18 other countries, attended conferences, think tank sessions, meetings with officials from the US Department of Education, and networked with organizations that support STEM achievement in students.

In addition, WWEST Manager Danniele Livengood and Dr. Shannon traveled to Montreal for the 11th North American Gender Summit, where close to 600 advocates of gender equality from science, innovation, and development had the opportunity to engage in fruitful discussions under the overarching theme of "Embracing pluralism and thriving through diversity - shaping science and innovation." WWEST, along with the other NSERC Chairs for Women in Science and Engineering, networked with leaders in the issue of diversity in STEM, took part in workshops, and Dr. Shannon moderated a panel entitled, "Diversity-, Sex-, and Gender-Based Analysis in Specific STEM Topics."

Dr. Shannon also traveled to the Yukon in June, where she visited women engineers who are part of the 30 by 30 initiative (a commitment by Engineers Canada to raise the percentage of newly licensed engineers who are women to 30% by the year 2030). You can read all about that trip in this blog post, and hear Dr. Shannon's interview with two leading women in the 30 by 30 initiative in the Yukon here.


Our blog is still going strong! Just in 2017, the blog has featured 40+ posts on topics ranging from the best techniques for writing about women in STEM, the various careers that STEM encompasses, and how to be an ally for women in STEM. In addition, our Media Depictions of Women in STEM series, which started in January, 2017, boasts 8 posts (and counting) of in-depth analysis of women in STEM who are depicted in media such as TV and cinema.

Some of our favourite blog posts from 2017 include:

''HER'story of the Tech Industry: When Women Were Computers
Transgender Day of Visibility in STEM
How Marie Tharp Changed Geology
Be an Ally for Women in STEM!
The Finkbeiner Test: 7 Rules to Avoid Gender Profiling
Girl Power Anthems to Beat the Winter Blues

Thank you for supporting us this year, whether it's subscribing to our newsletter, following our Twitter or Facebook accounts, or coming to events we've hosted. Here's to more networking, teaching and learning, and fostering of diverse STEM communities in 2018!

Make sure to also see our full 24-month report for details on everything we've done at WWEST since 2015.