Inspiring young minds to expect equity
Professor Layton distinguished guest speaker at this year’s International Women's Day dinner
Professor Layton distinguished guest speaker at this year’s International Women's Day dinnerBy Jenna Braun University Relations
As a child, Anita Layton wanted nothing to do with mathematics.
She refused to follow in the footsteps of her father, a high school math teacher. So, despite her interest in the subject, she did not pursue a math degree.
Today, Anita Layton is the Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematical Biology and Medicine.
She often wonders why many students avoid mathematics, especially women. While attending Duke University, her undergraduate alma mater, only a quarter of the math majors were women. Layton believes that the lack of female role models and mentors has contributed to this gender gap.
“Women can be intimidated when other students, often males, appear to be able to solve problems within minutes,” she explained.
“I have learned to say, hey, you're really great at this. Good for you! Guess what? I am good at this other thing. Isn't it wonderful for both of us?"
Layton is a professor of applied mathematics, pharmacy and biology, and chair of the Research Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Council at the University of Waterloo. She continues to work hard while supporting the efforts and achievements of other women.
“A couple of months after I got here, Donna Strickland was on the news having won the Nobel Prize in Physics,” she said. “I was like, we are good. This is going to be the first of many Nobel Prizes [women] are going to win.”
Layton believes we need to continue shining a spotlight on all our female role models and that celebrating these women will encourage the next generation.
Layton is no stranger to the challenges and misjudgment women face regardless of the field they pursue. She goes out of her way to introduce her son, young and impressionable, to her female engineering friends after he, at age 5, proclaimed that there were no female engineers.
“We all know how widespread this stereotype is,” says Layton.
Layton believes it is important for students to have intelligent and inspirational female figures to look up to, noting it is especially important for students to see a variety of women to illustrate the many ways in which one can be successful.
“We can show our students that women are equally respected, that women's intelligence is valued and that women belong in leadership.”
The Canada 150 Research Chairs Program is a one-time funding program of $117.6 million per year to help postsecondary institutions attract and retain the world’s most accomplished and promising minds.
Layton’s research focuses on developing and applying mathematical models to gain insights into the physiology and pathophysiology of the mammalian kidneys. In particular, her team uses “mathematics as their microscope” to:
University of Waterloo recognizes and celebrates International Women's Day with our 14th annual dinner. Layton is the distinguished guest speaker for this year’s event. To learn more about the event, please visit the International Women’s Day Dinner webpage.