Girls and Women in Space Night

Girls and Women in Space Night: Western Inspires Girls to Shoot for the Stars

Ava Thompson

This Tuesday, Western held Girls and Women in Space Night at the Cronyn Observatory, to encourage girls to consider a career in astronomy.

This event was part of the United Nations' International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day to celebrate the critical role women and girls play in both science and technology fields. 

Girls and Women in Space Night is one of many global activities, and events organized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to promote inclusivity, equality and diversity in the field of Astronomy.

Among attendees last night were many young girls from the London community. The energy of the night was captured when an elementary-aged student arrived dressed as a mini-astronaut. Donning a spacesuit and a NASA baseball cap, the young girl matched her Dad, who brought her to the inspirational event.

This interstellar event was organized by Western’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and Western’s Institute for Earth and Space Exploration and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) – London Chapter. 

Parshati Patel, the Educational Outreach and Communications Specialist for the Institute for Earth and Space Exploration, explained how the speakers at the event featured women and girls at different stages of their career in space exploration. 

“We have included everyone from high school to elementary school and industry folks as well” said Patel.

“We want to make sure that people who are just near the age can see what it looks like to enter into the field.”

Parshati also explained the importance of this event in refuting barriers to Women in STEM fields.

Currently, fewer than 30 per-cent of researchers worldwide are women, while only around 30 per-cent of female students select STEM-related fields of study when pursuing higher education, according to UNESCO data from 2014-16.

 “We have a large team, every one of us has struggled in some way or another being women in STEM,” explained Patel.

“Tonight, I just want at least one person to take away that no matter how much you struggle there will always be awesome things you can do in this field.”

This year’s event has expanded since its first year in 2019, as they are now involved with the Canadian Space Agency through a Junior Astronauts Campaign.

Canada is part of the NASA-led Lunar Gateway program, one of the next major international initiatives in human space exploration, and the Junior Astronauts campaign wants to teach students how they can play a part in this important endeavour. 

The campaign hosts a variety of activities for students from grades six to nine, and focuses on three areas of development: science and technology, fitness and nutrition, and communications and teamwork.