February 11 was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and Women’s College Hospital (WCH) took part in celebrating the incredible past, present and future contributions of #TeamWCH’s women scientists, as well as advocating for more equity and diversity in STEM.
To mark the day, in partnership with Baycrest Health Sciences, WCH hosted “Beyond the Binary: Challenging Sex and Gender Variables in Science,” a virtual event with over 250 attendees that examined the past, present and future of sex and gender in science and medical research.
The event featured a conversation with Angela Saini, science journalist, broadcaster and author, moderated by Dr. Rulan Parekh, Vice President of Academics at WCH.
The discussion focused on the purpose of measuring sex and gender in health research, and whether science can exist without categorization. In health research, there are areas where sex impacts the outcomes, as well as instances where it isn’t a driving factor. Because sex and gender are often conflated, we haven’t always acknowledged how gender impacts outcomes in medical research. Saini also underscored the import of history and culture and their impact on scientific theories and ideas, which has often been overlooked.
Later the event turned to a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Allison Sekuler of Rotman Research. The focus of the discussion was on thinking broadly, incorporating stories and moving beyond categorization. The panel featured Saini and Dr. Parekh, as well as:
- Gillian Einstein, Professor of Psychology & the Wilfred and Joyce Posluns Chair in Women’s Brain Health and Aging, University of Toronto
- Harlan Pruden, Indigenous Knowledge Translation Lead & co-founder of the Two-Spirit Dry Lab at Chee Mamuk, British Columbia Centre for Disease Control
- Juliet Daniel, Cancer Biologist and the Associate Dean of Research and External Relations in the Faculty of Science, McMaster University
The panel conversation covered the impact of Western perspectives on science and how science and knowledge, more broadly, is viewed differently in other cultures, including how we can learn from each other and our different knowledge systems.
The panel highlighted the importance of researchers stretching and learning new ways to conduct research, speaking about the value of mixed methods (for instance, qualitative and quantitative). Finally there was a discussion about language and its fluidity – how terminology changes and is reflective of beliefs at a particular point of time in history.
Engaging in and leading conversations around sex, gender and equity in the health sciences, demonstrates WCH’s continued commitment to the advancement of diversity in health science and allows us to further our existing partnerships with other academic institutions and healthcare organizations, as well as building new connections with community members. Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s celebrations!