Our History

The idea

The idea for the Alberta Women's Science Network (AWSN) was formulated at the Science Alberta Foundation conference held October 1992 in Calgary. Here, women from all over Alberta discussed the need for a network amongst Women in Science & Engineering groups in Alberta. By communicating and sharing resources, the groups would be helping each other to achieve common goals. The outcome was a Consortium Committee representing some of the active women in science groups in Alberta. The committee members were: Joyce Luethy, Susan MacAlister, Dr. Lis Dixon, Dr. Margaret Ann Armour, Connie Parenteau, Arlene Howel-Pick, Joy Brown, Pamela Parr, Mary Jane Tomcala, Dr. Dorothy Tovell, Ingrid Jasper and Glenna Jefferies, chair.

The mission, objectives and activities were drafted and the group was granted non-profit society status in Alberta, November 1993. The first newsletter was published in June 1993 with the purpose of reporting on all the activities in Alberta that met the AWSN mission and the first annual general meeting was held in June 1994.



AWSN's original Molecule logo



In the interest of attaining funds however, the focus became primarily STEM outreach programs for young girls. As there were very few STEM programs for girls at the time, the AWSN and other groups worked hard to fill this gap.  Under the direction of Joyce Leuthy, the AWSN was able to effectively express the need for, initiate and facilitate communication between many girls STEM outreach programs throughout the province, including Operation Minerva, WISEST, ExploreIT and Cybermentor.  After its inception in 1993, the AWSN also became the administrator of the already successful one-day job-shadowing event for junior high girls known as Operation Minerva Calgary.  Since 1988, over 8000 girls have participated in Operation Minerva events held in Calgary, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Ft. McMurray  & Peace River.


Although girl’s STEM outreach programs were the focus, the AWSN still pursued its mission of providing communication and resources for all women’s STEM groups as best it could with very limited resources.  In 2002, the AWSN obtained a casino license with the Alberta Gaming & Liquor Commission and with it, a regular source of funds. The AWSN was finally free to consistently support any programs that fulfilled its mandate.  Over the next few years, it helped to initiate and/or fund a number of programs that helped young women to pursue and stay in their STEM profession such as WiSER, UA-WiSE and UC-WISE.  During this time, the AWSN also began its yearly scholarship for undergraduate women in a STEM program, as well as its Minerva Mentoring Award to recognize excellence in mentorship of girls/women in STEM.


During this stage of its history, the AWSN also recognized that First Nations people and STEM trained newcomers were also underrepresented populations in the fields of STEM and therefore would benefit from programs specifically geared to them.  With this understanding, individual members within the AWSN, began the process of developing such programs as Power to Choose, BESTT (with Athabasca University) and MentorUP.


In 2013, the AWSN launched a new logo, new website and our three pillars of activity with the consideration that all our programs and activities had to fall within the mandate of at least one pillar.

Recruitment:  programs that encourage youth from underrepresented groups to pursue their interest in STEM (girls, aboriginal youth, rural youth).

Retention:  programs that encourage STEM trained professionals to find work in, and to stay and grow in their profession.  (new graduates, Alberta newcomers, women)

Recognition: recognizing excellence in academics, mentorship and unique STEM pursuits.



AWSN's 2013 Diversity Molecule logo

This process re-energized the AWSN and the next two years were a time of intense growth with many new member and hosted programs as well as our first Explore, Challenge, Inspire Gala in 2015.


In the fall of 2015, the AWSN executive voted on a new mission and vision, taking the AWSN back to its roots, but with a twist.  AWSN’s plans for the future are to be a network for like-minded STEM organizations so that they can share resources to reach common goals.  However, our common goals no longer focus only on women, but on diversity and equal opportunities for everyone to explore, pursue and continue their interests and career aspirations in STEM.