Thompson Rivers University

Student wins scholarship for Indigenous women in STEM

November 10, 2021

Sophie Collins, left, receives the Indigenous Women in Technology Scholarship from Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training.

This math was easy for TRU scholar Sophie Collins: She is one of 15 women each awarded $10,000 for the Women in Technology/Indigenous Women in Technology Scholarships this fall. Collins is the only student to win the Indigenous Women in STEM Scholarship.

Funded by the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society, the scholarships are based on academic achievement and a demonstrated commitment to a career in computer/data science, engineering or mathematics. The scholarships come from grants to the society from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.

“Kukwstsétemc (thank you) to the society for awarding me this scholarship. Every day I strive to be a good ancestor and in doing so, I aim to inspire other young girls, specifically Indigenous girls to work for their dreams,” says Collins.

“I want young girls to push the boundaries by going into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs and to hold a strong presence while being the minority in the room. With a scholarship like this, I am thrilled to be able to show younger girls there are opportunities to further their education and achieve their goals, no matter how big.”

Women inspiring other women

Collins is completing a Bachelor of Science degree, with a major in physics and a minor in math. She intends to go into research and data analysis. Last year, she interned at Qwelmínte Secwepemc for a co-op placement. There, she experienced and immersed herself in the culture, met with Elders and worked on a cumulative effects summer project researching moose browse capacity within Secwepemcúl’ecw.

“I got to experience and immerse myself in the culture. There aren’t many opportunities to do that and with the good work they’re doing, it was a very unique opportunity,” she says.

Sophie Collins and her mom, Sheila Collins, at the scholarship awards event in November 2021.

“A career in STEM is an inspired choice. These women will be inspiring other women to follow in their footsteps,” says Irving K Barber Society Chair, Melvin Berg. “They will be mentors and peers to those who are developing similar skills, and leaders in a more diverse and inclusive workplace. The society is pleased to play a part in empowering their potential.”

BC Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training Anne Kang says she’s honoured to recognize women who are breaking down barriers in their field.

“I’m proud that our government is empowering a new generation of women and Indigenous women to enter sectors that will provide fulfilling, family supporting careers and contribute to critical innovations to benefit society.”

Women underrepresented in tech

Women are under-represented in tech-related disciplines such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In the 2019-20 fiscal year, women received 39 percent of STEM credentials awarded by the B.C. public post-secondary system, compared to 61% of non-STEM program credentials.

The tech sector in B.C. is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy generating about $35 billion in revenue, supporting over 131,000 high-paying jobs. The province is home to more than 11,000 tech businesses. Labour market forecasts expect more than 74,000 tech-related job openings over the next decade for computer programmers, software designers, engineers, and others. Women represent only about a quarter of the tech workforce.

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