Vancouver Island biochemist encourages women to get creative in science careers

A Vancouver Island biochemist believes creativity is key to persuading more women to get into the field.

'Try not to be intimidated or afraid and realize you have what it takes'

Sunday marks the UN International Day of Women in Science. ( REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom )

A Vancouver Island biochemist believes creativity is key to persuading more women to get into the field.

Sunday marks the International Day of Women in Science, and the UN says women and girls continue to be excluded from the field despite efforts over the past 15 years to encourage involvement.

"I think critical thinking is a form of creativity and you really need imagination and creativity to help with problem solving, and science is full of problem solving," said Anna-Mary Schmidt, who works at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's Centre for Plant Health in Sidney, B.C., in Greater Victoria.

Initially, she went to arts school for photography where she got excited about the chemistry behind developing film and making prints.

Driven by that excitement and her love of the outdoors, Schmidt turned her focus to biochemistry. She remembers there was just one female professor in the department at the time.

"We need to shift the current paradigm that being successful in science, technology or engineering fields, is difficult and math-driven," she told she told All Points West guest host Megan Thomas.

But even as the gender gap in mathematic achievement shrinks, enrolment still isn't growing, she added.

'Healthy dose of skepticism'

Schmidt suggests that more focus be placed on the skills that women test high in, like verbal and writing abilities, and put a greater value on attributes like organization and skepticism.

"Females tend to be a little more skeptical than males but if you want to do research, a healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing," she said.

"It all adds up to a more balanced person and scientist."

The message she wants to send to aspiring female scientists is one that her mother, a political journalist, demonstrated to her.

"You can imagine back in the day that was a very male dominated field, but she loved to write and she loved to learn about about politics, so she went ahead and did that.

"She really instilled that in me and my siblings, to do what you love and really believe in your abilities."

Schmidt tells women who are interested in a career in science to "try not to be intimidated or afraid and realize you have what it takes."

With files from All Points West