Soapbox Science event at The Forks showcases women in STEM

All it takes to spread the word about the accomplishments of women and non-binary folks in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is a soapbox and a public setting, just ask Manisha and Nisha Ajmani. 

The sisters are co-organizers of Soapbox Science Winnipeg, an event at The Forks Saturday, featuring women and non-binary scientists speaking to the public about their research, in an effort to dismantle barriers and create a more inclusive future for science. 

“The intention is to bring more fantastic research … to the streets of Winnipeg in an informal setup,” said Nisha, a biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 

The first event was first held in London, England in 2011, according to the Soapbox Science website. The outreach platform has grown with nearly 2,000 scientists and around 200,000 people attending events around the world.

Bruna Soares Fernandes does a demonstration at the Soapbox Science event. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Manisha, a research project manager with the University of Winnipeg, enjoyed sharing her research at a Soapbox Science event in Edinburgh in 2017 so much that she decided to bring the event to Winnipeg.

The two sisters, who are passionate advocates for women in STEM, hosted a Soapbox Science event in the capital in 2020. 

This year, the Winnipeg event featured 12 speakers who work locally in roles like researchers, assistant professors and government workers. About 150 to 200 people went to event, which was held between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. CT. 

A woman talking
Irene Fakankun gives a presentation at the Soapbox Science event at The Forks. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

“In each session we have four different speakers who are going to talk about their research … such as how climate change is affecting our city, how new technologies are being used for different applications like robots, or machine learning and how genes connect with natural products,” Manisha said. 

“Basically you will get a flavour of every single topic,” she added. 

The two sisters hope the event can promote some of the city’s researchers and also inspire younger women and non-binary people to carve out their own path in a STEM field. 

“We are trying here to let people know that we have amazing scientists who are doing amazing research in Winnipeg,” said Manisha. “And at the same time we’re trying to promote the visibility of female researchers.”

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