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The upcoming Actions for Healthcare conference will take place Feb. 19-20, 2017. Photo: CC, Ilmicrofono Oggiono.

Club president hopes to raise awareness for gender equality on campus

Six years ago, Actions for Healthcare, a student-run, non-profit organization, started up at the University of Ottawa with the purpose of raising money for healthcare-related charities such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

This year, club president Linxi Mytkolli, a fourth-year U of O biopharmaceutical science student, is doing things differently by placing women speakers at the forefront of the group’s largest event—an annual conference on health-related issues.

Mytkolli told the Fulcrum that 60 per cent of U of O graduates are female, yet they are not getting senior positions in the workforce. According to Mytkolli, it’s “all boys clubs,” a trend which starts right here at the U of O.

“Gender equality is an issue on this campus,” Mytkolli said. She further said that “women in positions of leadership get congratulated, but not men,” wondering if this is because people are surprised that women are attaining prominent positions in the field, or if it is because they are skeptical about these women.

To publicly address the issue of inequality in the field of healthcare, Mytkolli submitted a piece to the Ottawa Citizen on Oct. 24, highlighting that in previous years her club has only featured male speakers at the annual conference. The piece discussed Mytkolli’s story, and her desire to push for more female speakers at the conference.

“At last year’s conference, we were unable to acquire a female speaker, which unfortunately happens more often than not in the world of academic conferences, which are heavily dominated by male speakers,” she wrote in the Citizen.

“I am especially excited about the event because we are also trying to debunk the modern ‘myth’ that conferences are dominated by male speakers. We aim to have more than 50 per cent of our speakers be female.”

“This is supposed to be the land of equal opportunity and yet, as an aspiring physician, I am often confronted with the reality of a male-dominated field,” Mytkolli wrote.

According to Mytkolli, she has received a great deal of backlash following her publication, such as emails saying, things such as “females cannot work as hard as a man, that is why they cannot advance.”

Mytkolli has been involved with Actions for Healthcare for four years, and she hopes that by being club president she will be able to use her leadership position to raise awareness on gender inequality.

“Gender equality is not just a female issue,” said Mytkolli. She believes that more students need to discuss this topic, which she believes has gotten “better (in) the last 10 years, but there is so much more to be done.”

For students looking to get involved with the upcoming conference in February 2017, which Mytkolli hopes will feature more female speakers, she is currently looking for diverse volunteers whose backgrounds will allow for growth within the organization itself.

Currently, Actions for Healthcare is working to secure speakers such as Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson, and Jane Philpott, Canada’s minister of health.

Students wishing to register for the conference, held  on Feb. 19 and 20, 2017, can do so on the Actions for Healthcare website.