Women in STEM: RevolutionHER
And the 2022 RevolutionHER Impact award in Leadership goes – Toronto’s Dr. Larissa Vingilis-Jaremko, founder and president of the Canadian Association for Girls in Science (CAGIS).
Since 2013, RevolutionHER has recognized over 3,000 women and youth and granted over $200,000 in combined bursaries, mentorships, services, and promotions to its winners. The Leadership Award recognizes leaders who exemplify community leadership and who have made an impact by advocating and inspiring others.
In Canada, when you think about who in the field of science, technology, trades, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) would meet this criterion, there is no other worthy candidate than Dr. Larissa Vingilis-Jaremko. Today, Larissa is the founder and president of CAGIS, the largest and longest-running STEM club for girls, non-binary, and gender nonconforming youth aged seven to 16 that explores the world of STEM with fun and hands-on activities led by experts.
Growing up, Larissa noticed the girls in her class avoided sciences and maths. “They thought they weren’t smart enough, and with the absence of role models, they lacked the encouragement and confidence to entertain potential careers as engineers or scientists. They had negative, stereotyped images of STEM professionals – scientists as old men with messy white hair and lab coats.”
Whereas Larissa had the influence of her parents, a scientist and engineer, she knew those stereotyped images of STEM professionals weren’t true. She wanted to expose girls to diverse role models, break stereotypes and share the excitement of STEM.
In 1992, at the age of nine, she started a small, local group of 20 girls and quickly expanded to a national not-for-profit organization with chapters across Canada.
Larissa created a movement that not only drew awareness on issues relating to gender equity in STEM but created a safe space where the entire trajectory of possible career paths opened up.
Young girls started to get excited about the sciences, technology, trades, engineering and mathematics. Through CAGIS, they met women who were making a difference in the STEM field and sharing their experiences.
This year, CAGIS is celebrating its 30th anniversary with the announcement of the CAGIS Youth STEM Award Winners. The awards recognized the outstanding achievements of girls aged 7-17 in Canada who have exhibited excellence in STEM innovation, equity, or communication. This year’s winners included:
• 11-year-old Aleena Sarikaya, Synapse Award for Innovation
• 17-year-old Sukhman Sunner, Seismic Impact Award for Equity
• 11-year-old Bhavishyaa Vignesh, Supernova Award for Communication
Although humbled to receive the RevolutionHER award for Leadership, Larissa says this award belongs to the countless volunteers and staff who, for over the past 30 years, have supported CAGIS and empowered a new generation of youth seeking a more equitable future in STEM.
In March 2022, Randstad, a global leader in the HR services industry, released a study indicating that women in Canada make up less than 25 per cent of people employed in STEM careers.
“Children are inundated with stereotypical portrayals of STEM experts in the media and society. These stereotypes can shape children’s perceptions of STEM experts and their interest in entering STEM fields. But, there’s good news: we can support interest in STEM among underrepresented groups through fun, hands-on activities, visits to cool STEM locations, access to role models, and mentorship – all elements CAGIS uses in its programming.”
If there is an “Aha!” moment for girls, it’s knowing that CAGIS is a club they can join where they can meet other like-minded girls, and “acquire the confidence, the skills, and the knowledge to feel comfortable with science, technology, trades, engineering and mathematics, and pursue their interests, whatever they may be.”
Canadian Association for Girls in Science (CAGIS), girlsinscience.ca