Celebrating International Day of Women and Girls in Science

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: February 11, 2021 6:00 a.m.

Ashley Linkewich, Lois Arokoyo, and Dr. Gwen Grinyer are part of the change that will inspire more women to join science-based faculties at the University of Regina.
Ashley Linkewich, Lois Arokoyo, and Dr. Gwen Grinyer are part of the change that will inspire more women to join science-based faculties at the University of Regina. Credit: UAC

To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, three women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) – a U of R Faculty member, Alum, and current student – share their experience and perspective on what it is like navigating the field of study and work.

Lois Arokoyo came from Nigeria to study environmental systems engineering.
Credit: Lois Arokoyo
Lois Arokoyo is an international student from Nigeria who is currently working towards a degree in environmental systems engineering. She is in the middle of her co-op term with the Ministry of Highways and is set to graduate in 2022.
Being in a new country and one of only two Black women in her classes was something that Arokoyo said was difficult to manage at first, however, having strong support from her family and a passion to follow her dreams gave her the foundation she needed to find success despite any challenges. She also benefitted from approaching her studies with the mindset that there is a wide variety of people with different knowledge that can help her and her studies.
“Every time I meet someone who knows more than I do I always take that as a learning opportunity and an opportunity to grow and make connections in my class,” she said. “Just working with people so far in my classes, I have learnt a lot, I’ve learnt to network with people from different backgrounds. Canada and the U of R have given me a big opportunity to pursue my dreams.”
Her efforts have not gone unnoticed as she was the recipient of the 30 by 30 Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan Award for Women in Engineering and Geo-science – an award designed around a campaign to recognize and celebrate women in engineering and geo-sciences, with the goal of having 30 per cent women in the field by 2030.
“My message to young girls is to pursue your dreams, it is very okay to dream big,” Arokoyo said. “It’s good to listen and learn from those who care about you but you cannot obey every voice. Be open to learning and exploring new opportunities when you are given the chance to. It is important that you seize every opportunity you have when working with people because you’re building strong relationships. Whatever you choose to do, pursue it with all of your heart and have faith in doing so.”
Ashley Linkewich’s career path in STEM took her all the way to Australia
Credit: Ashley Linkewich
Geographically, Ashley Linkewich’s story is the opposite of Arokoyo’s as she is a Canadian who graduated from Industrial Systems Engineering at the U of R in 2017, but decided to pursue her career abroad. Australia just so happened to have an 18-month working visa for recent grads in industrial engineering, and she jumped at the opportunity. Following that term, she secured a year-long working visa that was sponsored by her company.
She has progressed from working in manufacturing for oil and gas to doing casting on F-35 fighter jets to data process system optimization. As a student, she was given the tools to perfect these skills in the work field.
Linkewich recalled her experience studying engineering as being incredibly positive and said she did not ever feel like she was being treated any differently, but she acknowledged that there is a small representation of women in both school and the workforce, which is something she wants to help change.
Linkewich is actively searching for ways – including starting her own podcast – to use her experience to not only get more women in fields like engineering, but also to raise awareness about what she feels is a gap in the education system. She believes that high school students need to be provided the tools and foundations to better understand themselves and their values in order to choose a career path.
“I believe that a great way to increase female representation in STEM fields, while creating a more engaged group of graduates, would be to offer these topics in addition to their regular curriculum,” she said. “If you have a degree you really enjoy and you know it’ll open doors for you, then you’re able to choose what door to go down based on what aligns with you and your values. Then, you will be unstoppable, you will be passionate about what you’re doing, and you won’t work a day in your life.”
The theme of International Day of Women and Girls in Science is Women scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19, and that certainly applies to Dr. Gwen Grinyer, a nuclear physicist and assistant professor in the Department of Physics at the U of R whose fascinating experiments have been well documented. She also contributed to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic as she went from using her research lab’s 3D printer for building nuclear physics detectors to using it to make headbands for mounting face shields.
Dr. Gwen Grinyer is the first female tenure-track faculty member in the U of R Physics Department.
Credit: UAC
Grinyer studied in both Canada and in the United States where she worked under a world-leading female nuclear physicist at Michigan State University. She then led her own research team at a heavy-ion accelerator facility in France for seven years before joining the U of R in 2017. It was then that she became the first female tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Physics. Having more female representation is something Grinyer believes will encourage more women to join STEM fields.
“There is a saying that has had a profound impact on me – ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ – meaning that it is so important for young people to see scientists who look like them,” she said.
Representation was a common theme with all three women, which reflects the UN’s estimate that less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women, and in UNESCO’s data which showed only around 30 per cent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. 
With women like Arokoyo set to become a leader in her field of study, Linkewich wanting to share her story to help more women get involved in STEM, and Grinyer being a strong female leader in her department, they are part of the change that will inspire more women to join science-based faculties at the U of R.