Three students from the University of Montreal are winners of the “Chapeau, les Filles!” competition.

Three students registered for a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from the University of Montreal stood out in the competition Hats off, girls! 2020-2021 and its Excelle Science component. Maria Sadikov, Marguerite Dion and Fannie Bilodeau each won an award, totaling $9,000.

Maria Sadykov participated for the second time in the competition, winning the Excelle Science Prize from the Ministry of Higher Education, worth $5,000, one of the largest amounts awarded. Passionate about her field of study, she attributes this success to her perseverance and the new knowledge she has gained since her participation in 2019-2020. Accompanied by her mentor, Professor Julie Hlavacek-Larondo, she thought at length about the circumstances that had led her to this competition. “During the admissions process, I had to answer many questions that made me think a lot about my interest in physics, the place of women in my program and science in general, the inspiring physics of the story as well as my accomplishments and future in the field,” tells the person who found the experience very rewarding.

The same story is with Fanny Bilodo, who for his part was awarded the $2,000 Excelle Science Prize from the Ministry of Economy and Innovation. If she admitted that she lacked confidence in her skills and preferred not to try her luck last year, this year she did not hesitate and set out on the adventure. His candidacy was supported by Professor Jean-François Arguin, co-founder of the Parité Sciences Project, a grouping of the Department of Physics at UdeM that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion in the fields of physics, mathematics and computer science. “In my opinion, the fact that physics studies were initially intended for men continues to feed harmful stereotypes that persist today,” she admits. We just have to look at the representations of physics in popular culture, which are almost all centered around men and their discoveries. These biases and these incomplete representations help create preconceived notions that can make some young girls feel less interested in or less confident in physics when they study it. To rectify this situation, we need to be visible and make our voices heard.”

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Margaret Dion agrees. The woman who received the Persévérance Excelle Science award from the Centrale des union du Québec, worth $2,000, says she hesitated before studying science after high school. “Already in high school, I found studying physics fascinating. Thanks to mathematics, we can understand all the phenomena around us. Despite that, I was reluctant to pursue studies in these fields due to the under-representation of women. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to attend a conference of two physics professors From UdeM who came to my CEGEP to advance the standing of women in science. Since this presentation, I’ve had a twinkle in my eyes when I talk about physics with those around me.”

The three winners agree to participate in Hats off, girls! Rewards and encourages eligible students to participate in upcoming competitions. “This competition is an excellent opportunity for women in typically male fields to showcase their careers while gaining visibility and recognition,” says Fanny Pelodo. Created in 1996 by the Quebec government, the competition Hats off, girls! It acknowledges the work and perseverance of women in choosing training that leads to the pursuit of a traditional male profession. The Excelle Science component has the same goal, but specifically targets studies in the scientific and technological sectors. This year, 70 awards ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 were awarded, totaling about $160,000.

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