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Anya Forestell, a student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, spoke today at the second anniversary celebration of the UN Women's HeForShe movement for gender equity.
Forestell shared her experiences as being a woman in STEM. The event was held at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) event in New York City.
Attendees included UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, global leaders including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Celebrities Trevor Noah and Edgar Ramirez were also in attendance.
Forestell was one of the 2015 Waterloo HeForShe scholarship recipients and the scholarship has inspired her to get involved with Waterloo’s FemPhys group, an extracurricular group that supports women in physics.
Her advice to young women who want to study in the STEM fields is to persist no matter the obstacles and find a good community that will support you through the ups and downs.
I know physics is my passion. I know that Waterloo is the right university for me and nothing else matters,” said Forestell. “It doesn’t matter if I’m a man or a woman. I’m exactly where I need to be.
Forestell, who attended a very small high school that had equal numbers of boys and girls in math and science classes, says attending university has given her a much broader perspective on gender issues in STEM disciplines.
When you look up and you are the only woman in a room of 30 men, it changes your outlook,” said Forestell. “It’s a reminder that not all young women had the same experience I had. There are women, and the numbers are growing, but university is a very different environment from my high school.
Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo, will attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York City to report on the gender equality commitments the University of Waterloo has undertaken as part of the HeForShe IMPACT10x10x10 initiative.
UPDATE: Hear Anya's eloquent speech to the UN at 1:20:29.