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Generating debate in gender issues

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"Why do you still exist today?"

Allisha Sordi, a member of Women in Science and Engineering and a third-year engineering student at the University of Calgary is often asked this question

Her answer is that despite a population that is over 50 per cent female, women are still under-represented in many academic disciplines at the U of C, specifically those that are science-
related.

This is just one topic that concerns the researchers at the U of C Institute for Gender Research.

The Institute for Gender Research was officially launched in January of 2000. At that time, it was estimated that over 60 researchers from at least 25 distinct academic disciplines were involved with the program.

"Sometimes if you keep on using the same pair of glasses, you're not going to see, in a sense," said Mary Valentich, a Professor Emerita in the Faculty of Social Work and former Acting Director of the Institute for Gender Research. "If you bring people together with a number of different perspectives, you can get some really exciting explanations and some very creative theorizing."

The Institute will host many speakers on campus this Fall, including Dr. Aradhana Parmar from the Faculty of Communication and Culture. Parmar is the former President of the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association and is currently researching new sources of funding for immigrant associations in Alberta. An immigrant from India herself, Parmar helps women's associations start businesses that will provide the income needed to run their programs without relying on government funding. Her presentation will be on Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. in the Professional Faculties Building. "I'm hoping to raise awareness and provide inspiration for intellectual interaction on campus," said Parmar of her goals for the presentation.

Other upcoming presenters hosted by the Institute of Gender Studies include Dr. Elisabeth Dixon, a professor of Environmental Science and Chemistry and member of WISE at the U of C. She will address the topic, "The Undergraduate Experience: Is it Different for Women?" On Nov. 11, Dr. Beverly Whipple, a Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University and co-author of the international best-seller The G Spot and Other Recent Discoveries About Human Sexuality will also speak at the U of C.

"Hosting speakers is partly tradition," said Valentich. "It's an expectation for faculties to present research and it's really important for the university."

Part of the Institute's mission is to foster awareness of the importance of gender and for this reason, they maintain close contact with many student run organizations that address gender-related issues on campus. WISE is one such example.

WISE boasts over 1,100 members and involves all people in the promotion of women in the fields of science and engineering. Sardi explained that the work of members such as Dixon is important in the academic advancement of women.

"In some cultures, females don't usually attend post-secondary institutions," she said. "It's only males, so [WISE members] are sort of pioneering the way for females of their background."

Programs run by WISE include job shadowing of female professors and grad students. WISE also encourages their members to attend presentations such as those offered by the Institute for Gender Research.

For more information on speakers presented by the Institute, students should e-mail gender@ucalgary.ca.

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