The Canadian Archive of Women in STEM / Les archives canadiennes des femmes en STIM

Current main project of CIWES-ICFIS

Canadian Archive of Women in Stem Eng
Les archives canadiennes des femmes en STIM

Priority Objectives

1. Build an inventory of existing archives of women in Canadian STEM;

2. Develop a guide on how to collect, preserve and donate archives;

3. Run an internet campaign of awareness on the importance of planning the donation of archives;

4. Develop a web site and show examples of archives collected.

Background information

Women have made great contributions to science, technology, and engineering and mathematics (STEM), but the known history of women in STEM in Canada is still in its infancy. The invisibility of women in traditional and established archives, which most often collected the records of men and tended to privilege their life and work, has contributed to this issue.  This gender gap in our history has also resulted in professional women’s inclination to underestimate their accomplishments.   Many women did not seek to preserve their papers, and neither did their family, friends, or colleagues.  

There is a pressing need to provide current and future women scientists and engineers in Canada with an accurate and inspiring understanding of their past, to learn about the lives and accomplishments of the pioneering and inspiring women of the past, and to ensure that present women’s contributions to STEM are recorded for posterity. 

Significant initiatives have recently begun in Canada to recover and research the lives of women in STEM. A key event was a two-day international and interdisciplinary workshop held in 2014 at the University of Ottawa, under the auspices of CIWES-ICFIS and of the NSERC Regional Chairs for Women and Engineering.  CIWES-ICFIS Board members Ruby Heap, Claire Deschênes, and Monique Frize led the meeting which ended with the adoption of an action plan aimed at the creation of a national archive of women scientists and engineers.

Creation of the Archive

As a result of the 2014 Workshop, CIWES-ICFIS along with our partners at the University of Ottawa Library and Library and Archives Canada created the Canadian Archive of Women in STEM / Les archives canadiennes des femmes en STIM (CAWSTEM/ACFSTIM). CAWSTEM’s goals are to increase awareness of and access to archival material in Canada and to encourage women in STEM to donate their records to an archive; ensuring that the story of women’s accomplishments in STEM is not lost for future researchers. 

The goal of Increasing access to the historical record of women in STEM has been accomplished through the creation of a bilingual portal, built and hosted by the University of Ottawa Library. The portal provides researchers, educators and historians with a link to currently available archival holdings related to women in STEM held by archival institutions across the country.  Canadian archival institutions have shared information about their holdings and the portal now has over 300 entries – a number that continues to grow.  The portal can be used to quickly locate relevant material and find out how to access it. 

The aim of encouraging women involved in STEM to think about their legacy and donate their records to an archive is still underway.  Through the development of a donation guide, an online video, collaboration with archival institutions and conversations with women, we hope to lessen the anxiety and trepidation women may feel about the donation process. 

For more information on the project, please visit the uOttawa website:

Interested in donating archival materials?

The story of women in STEM cannot be told if the historical record is lost.  Donating records to a historical archive ensures that future generations will know your contributions and be inspired.  If you are a woman in STEM, or know a woman in STEM, follow the simple steps and think about the questions below to get started with the donation process.  

1. Where do you want to donate?  

Many archives in Canada are interested in preserving the records of women in STEM.  Do you have a connection to a particular academic institution, community or organisation?  If they have an archive, that might be the first place to start.  For lists of archives in Canada, you can visit the provincial archival association and provincial network websites:

If you do not have a preference for which archive you donate to, the University of Ottawa Archives and Special Collections is currently building a collection of archives of women in STEM.  You can learn about donating to them at:

2. What types of material are archives interested in collecting?  

Typically, archives are interested in records that tell the story about what you did, what activities you were involved in and who you are.  Records could include: 

  • correspondence
  • personal diaries
  • papers and reports
  • articles
  • photographs
  • personal video or audio recordings
  • research data 

3. Contacting an archive about your donation offer

Once you have an archive in mind, visit their website and look for their contact information.  Most archives have a donation page which will give you information about their particular donation process.  When you contact them, tell them who you are, about the work that you do and what records you have to donate. 

4. Why an archive might not accept your donation offer

Archives don’t always accept material that is offered to them.  It could be because they don’t have space, or the records don’t meet their particular collection mandate.  If your donation offer is rejected, don’t give up.  You can ask the archives for suggestions of other institutions that may be interested in your records, or you can also look at the list above to find alternatives. 

For more information about donating archival material, please contact your preferred organisation directly.